What's the price of Cuban help?

The 217 Cuban specialists arrived on Monday morning. The writer calls on government to be transparent with its citizens on issues surrounding their deployment in the country and how they plan to address the resulting backlash.
The 217 Cuban specialists arrived on Monday morning. The writer calls on government to be transparent with its citizens on issues surrounding their deployment in the country and how they plan to address the resulting backlash.
Image: GCIS

We welcome the deployment of more than 200 Cuban doctors to our country this week to assist to contain the spread of Covid-19. With SA due to ease up on the lockdown as some industries return to work next week, we need all the help we can get.

SA was one of 22 countries that requested help from Cuba, which has sent over 1300 medical specialists to assist in the fight against Covid-19 in African countries, the Caribbean and Italy, which was ravaged by the virus.

The communist state has the world's highest ratio of doctors to population, and according to Reuters, it is renowned for its focus on prevention and community-based primary healthcare, and its preparedness to fight pandemics.

"The advantage of Cuba is that they are a community health model, one that we would like to use," health minister Zweli Mkhize was quoted saying by our sister publication, TimesLIVE.

It was not a surprise that one of the countries Cuban healthcare workers were sent to assist was SA, as the two countries have a special relationship. Havana helped SA in the fight against apartheid - a mission which resulted in their soldiers dying in Angola during the Struggle.

And the two countries have since enjoyed 25 years of diplomatic relations, with some of our county's students from disadvantaged backgrounds being sent to study medicine in Cuba on a government scholarship.

However, the arrival of Cuban doctors in Pretoria yesterday received mixed reaction from citizens demanding to know how much the country would pay for the "help". Others questioned why government had overlooked its own unemployed healthcare professionals.

Nurses union Denosa president Simon Hlungwani told EWN news there were thousands of doctors and nurses who were jobless locally.

We call on government to be transparent with its citizens on such issues. We deserve to know how much is being spent on our Cuban friends.

We also expect answers on what is the state's plan for its unemployed doctors as this would be the perfect time to place them as we approach winter, which experts have said would be our peak time for coronavirus infections. As the saying goes, charity begins at home.

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