29 May 2012
South Africa’s healthcare system will receive a healthy injection of human resources following the signing of a collaboration agreement between the South African and Cuban health ministries.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his Cuban counterpart, Roberto Morales Ojeda, signed the agreement in Pretoria on Friday. The signing of the agreement represented a major milestone in the two countries’ 16-year partnership, according to Motsoaledi.
The agreement will strengthen the South African health ministry’s strategic interventions in the areas of:
- Implementing the National Health Insurance (NHI).
- Overhauling the healthcare system by refocusing on primary healthcare and improving functionality and management.
- Improving human resources, planning, development and management.
- Strengthening research and development, with a focus on biotechnology exchange and innovation.
The two countries first entered into agreements in 1995, with the aim of bolstering South Africa human resource requirements, especially in rural communities. This was done through the recruitment of Cuban doctors.
Later, other initiatives allowed for South African medical students to train in Cuba.
“To date, 304 medical doctors have been produced out of 808 recruited in the programme, with 406 currently undergoing medical training in Cuba,” Motsoaledi said. “Ninety-eight are doing final clinical training in local medical schools and 34 medical students are graduating this year.”
Cuba has the capacity to train as many as 1 000 South African students a year; South Africa is expected to send 500 students in September but that number could still increase.
In addition, both ministries agreed to resume the recruitment of Cuban doctors to work in South African hospitals after the initiative stalled a few years ago.
“The South African [health ministry] has identified close to 208 posts in different specialities where these doctors will be posted,” Motsoaledi said. “A team of experts will soon visit Cuba to work with Cuban experts to identify suitable professionals.”
Ojeda said Cuba and South Africa had long enjoyed a fruitful relationship and that Cuba was now contributing to the revolution South Africa had embarked on to improve healthcare, particularly primary healthcare.