Facts about Cuba's doctor programme:

Facts about Cuba's doctor programme:

l The Cuban doctors programme in SA came into effect in 1995 following the signing of a bilateral relations agreement to share skills and services.

l Cuban doctors were brought into the country to work in rural areas as a long-term measure to alleviate medical staff shortages. SA also sent students from these areas to be trained as doctors in Cuba.

l In 1996 the first group of Cuban doctors arrived in South Africa and were placed in rural hospitals in Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng.

l In January 1997, the first group of 10 local medical students left for Cuba and enrolled for a nine-month course in Spanish, a prerequisite for all foreign students studying in Cuba.

l The second group of 40 left in January 1998. Later the same year 25 students left for training and the programme is continuing.

l Today 430 medical students have been enrolled in the programme and some 240 Cuban doctors are contracted at state hospitals since the inception of the programme.

l The first group of students graduated at Medunsa in 2005. The following year the Department of Health welcomed the second group of 22 students who had completed their studies in Cuba.