Gauteng Health will continue to recruit students for the Cuban medical program

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi revealed that more students will be recruited for the controversial Cuban medicine study program.

The number of Gauteng students studying medicine in Cuba decreased from 264 in 2019 to 25 last year.

Answering District Attorney Jack Bloom’s questions in the Gauteng legislature, Mokgethi said there were 264 students in Cuba in 2019, 114 in 2020, 25 in 2021 and 25 this year.

But he reportedly said the SA Cuba binational deal is underway with more hiring planned.

“It is disappointing that the department wants to continue with a program that is more than double the cost of local medical training,” Bloom said.

“It also takes two more years because there is an extra year to learn Spanish and they spend another year to complete their training in a South African medical school.”

Historical Issues and Corruption Investigation

Mokgethi’s announcement of new recruits for the Cuban medical studies program is worrying.

The provincial treasury is currently carrying out a forensic audit of suspected corruption in this program which had a budget of Rand 313 million last year.

In March, the district attorney reported that the health department was still paying high salaries to experienced Cuban doctors despite expired contracts and unemployed local doctors, with many vacancies left frozen.

Additionally, the 2019 group of students had asked then Health Minister Zweli Mhkize for help after economic reforms in Cuba impacted their ability to obtain adequate food and housing.

The shortcomings were so severe that some did not even have access to basic necessities such as sanitary towels.

Furthermore, in January, the civilian organization Afriforum reported the “long history of cooperation and extremely questionable relations between South Africa and Cuba”.

Afriforum said the National Defense Force illegally procured COVID-19 drugs worth Rand 228 million, which they had to return.

“SA also saw it with the water engineering scandal when the government announced it would hire Cuban water engineers to fix the country’s water infrastructure,” AfriForum campaign officer Reinier Duvenage.

“The new [R50 million] the donation to Cuba is just the next event in this series of very problematic events, ”he added.

“Gauteng should follow the Western Cape Department of Health which refuses to participate in this costly program,” Bloom said.

Bloom said the money would have been better spent on expanding training at Gauteng’s three medical schools rather than paying an exorbitant amount for overseas training that still requires an extra year of local training.

NOW READ: SA-based Cuban doctors take salaries at home while in-house doctors remain unpaid