Health sector congratulates 594 medical graduates trained in Cuba

Friday, July 8, 2022

Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says the recently graduated South African medical doctors who were trained in Cuba will help address the challenges that continue to plague the country’s healthcare system.

Minister Phaahla said the demand of doctors and other healthcare workers remains a huge issue in South Africa’s healthcare system.

“The system and our conditions as a country requires those trained in the new health associated security paradigm and preventative approach to strengthen the primary health care system,” the Minister said.

He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of 594 South African Medical Students graduating from Cuban Universities as part of Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme.

The objective of the programme is to alleviate the shortage of doctors in South Africa, especially in the historically disadvantaged communities and well as to improve human resource capacity and strengthen the healthcare system in the country.

Phaahla presided over the graduation ceremony held at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus in Pretoria.

He was joined by Health Deputy Minister, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, Deputy Minister of Health in the Republic of Cuba, Dr Luis Fernando LF Navarro, Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Prof BT Maharaj; as well as provincial MECs for Health and representatives from the University of Havana in Cuba.

This group of doctors come from eight different provinces with North West and Kwazulu-Natal having 126 graduates, Gauteng 113, Limpopo 86, Eastern Cape 83, Northern Cape 28, Free State 21, and Mpumalanga 12 graduates.

The Minister highlighted that the prevailing socio-economic conditions and environmental factors requires the health sector to remain vigilant and maintain focus on infectious diseases as they have been shown to be the emerging threats.

Over a number of years, the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration, grew in leaps and bounds, producing the desired medical professionals from which South Africa has benefitted immensely.

Phaahla said the glaring achievements from the collaboration signify the relevance and importance of solidarity among the people and nations of the world, seen many years ago by former President Nelson Mandela and El Comandante Fidel Castro.

“From its inception the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration programme opened opportunities and addressed the need for a new medical training model focusing on preventative and promotive healthcare services rather than the historical dominance of curative health care system.

“The programme opened access to advanced training as medical practitioners for disadvantaged students who would otherwise not be admitted in most of the South African medical schools because of their socio-economic background,” he said.

Phaahla said the collaboration increased the annual intake medical students and output of doctors in the country, which increased the capacity of provincial departments to place medical doctors in public health facilities in rural areas.

The Minister said the programme has also produced a long-lasting South Africa-Cuba universities collaboration in the academic discipline, especially in health, involving sharing of information and exchanges in research.

He added that the quality assurance system implemented in the programme is asserted by the fact that students who completed their studies are accepted into South African university for further supervision and alignment of outcomes.

“When the graduates return home they get integrated into the South African medical schools for quality assurance of their qualifications, after which they get offered places in the internship and community service programmes,” he said.

From 1997 to date, the collaboration has produced 2556 doctors, some of whom have become specialists.

Annually, since 2018, it has been producing more than 600 doctors, a milestone that exceeds South Africa’s local production of medical doctors.

The Minister congratulated the graduates on their life-time achievements and recognised their efforts and appreciation of their positive response to the call to duty.

“As you graduate, we welcome you to join this patriotic and dedicated force that has demonstrated resilience during the height of COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives of our people, but also some losing their own lives - we salute them for their courageous acts,” the Minister said.

Minister Phaahla further expressed his gratitude to the families for having endured the absence of their children as they had to stay in foreign lands acquiring the skills and expertise to contribute to this noble profession and critical service for the country. –