ailing healthcare sector gets a boost

THE public health sector is set to get a major boost following the graduation of 40 medical students who were part of the South Africa-Cuba training programme.

THE public health sector is set to get a major boost following the graduation of 40 medical students who were part of the South Africa-Cuba training programme.

The graduation ceremony of the doctors, who qualified last year, will be held at the University of Cape Town today. As part of the programme they are obliged to work at public hospitals in rural areas, where they are needed the most.

Department of Health spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said: "The programme forms part of the various interventions the department is implementing to respond to the challenges facing the public health sector in the country.

"Other initiatives that the department has in place include improving the working conditions for healthcare workers as demonstrated by the occupation specific dispensation.

"We further adopted the 10 point programme as part of overhauling the country's public health system."

The SA-Cuba programme began in the mid-1990s as an attempt to address the serious challenges of the dwindling number of medical doctors.

There was a view that local medical schools were not producing reasonable numbers of black medical doctors in particular within the context of the country's health demands.

This led to both countries signing a cooperation agreement. This enabled South Africa to recruit doctors from Cuba and also send young students from poor communities for medical training at Cuban universities.

The recruitment of doctors from Cuba has stopped but the training of South African students in Cuba continues.

So far 246 medical doctors have been trained in Cuba and are now employed throughout the country.

"The candidates for the programme are largely drawn from rural, under-serviced areas, and on completing their training they are placed in rural areas as part of ensuring healthcare services in those areas," Hadebe said.

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