Doctors reduced to beggars
SA trainees forced to beg for food
ABOUT 26 South African medical students studying in Cuba had to beg for food and accommodation at the SA Embassy there, after the troubled Limpopo health department failed to pay for their flights back home.
The students, part of the two countries' exchange programme, have completed their sixth year level and are to finish off their seventh year in South Africa.
One student who spoke to Sowetan said they were disappointed to find out that their tickets to return home on June 26 were not paid for, forcing them to scratch around to survive.
The National Department of Health only bought the tickets on Thursday last week and the students will return in two groups on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The students are part of the 1995 SA-Cuba health cooperation agreement.
Another 1,000 students will be sent to Cuba in September.
The sixth-year student, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said he would have to forfeit his holiday and go straight to a South African university where he is due to start his studies this week.
"Our contract says we must go back home as soon as we finish our studies. We even told the Limpopo government in March that we want to go home on June 26. We had used all our money to prepare for the journey home. We had even packed our luggage. We were so disappointed and angry when we were told that the tickets had not been bought," the student said.
"I ran out of money and could neither eat nor get a place to sleep for two days last week as we did not have shelter. We even went to the South African Embassy to beg for food and they were accommodating.
"I'm still angry. This has been a huge inconvenience for me because the last time I saw my family was in July last year and now I won't see them as I will have to go straight to Pretoria to finish my studies," he said.
The Limpopo government has been under fire for many bungles and was put under administration last year.
Limpopo health department spokesman Phuti Seloba admitted that they had taken too long to make bookings because they did not have a travel agent.
"The tickets cost us millions of rands and we couldn't just do the bookings by ourselves so we had to ask the national department to help us. The money was available. We are now doing an internal investigation to find out what led to this embarrassing situation."
Seloba said the students would definitely be home by Friday this week.
DA shadow minister of health Patricia Kopane said the incident was an embarrassment and called for the national department of health to reconsider the costly SA-Cuban agreement.
"That money could be used to provide training to even more doctors within the country." - firstname.lastname@example.org
- This article was first published in print on 16 July 2012