Pretoria - The country's healthcare system will receive a major injection of human resources following the signing of a collaboration agreement between the South African and Cuban Ministries of Health on Friday.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his Cuban counterpart Roberto Morales Ojeda signed the agreement in Pretoria.
Motsoaledi noted that the two countries' ministries of health have shared a partnership for the past 16 years and the signing of the agreement marked a major milestone in that partnership.
The agreement would 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 the functionality and management;
* improving human resources, planning, development and management; and
* strengthening research and development, with a focus in biotechnology exchange and innovation.
Motsoaledi noted that the two countries entered into agreements in 1995, with the aim of bolstering South Africa human resource requirements, especially in rural communities, 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; 98 are doing final clinical training in local medical schools and 34 medical students are graduating this year," he added.
The minister noted that Cuba had 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 counterpart has identified close to 208 posts in different specialities where these doctors will posted. A team of experts will soon visit Cuba to work with Cuban experts to identify suitable professionals," Motsoaledi said.
The Cuban Health Minister noted that Cuba and South Africa have long enjoyed good relationships, and that Cuba had contributed to the struggle against apartheid.
Cuba was now contributing to the revolution South Africa had embarked on to improve healthcare, particularly primary healthcare, in the country, he said.
"We are sending an army of white coated soldiers who are taking health to the most remote corners of the world. This is our contribution to the building of a better world," Ojeda added.