Government abandons Limpopo medical students in Cuba
Patricia Kopane, Shadow Minister of Health
12 July 2012
Nine South African medical students studying in Cuba as part of the South Africa-Cuba health co-operation agreement have been abandoned in Cuba by the Limpopo Government.
The DA spoke to one of the distraught students this morning. The student indicated that the nine students have no flight tickets home and had to sleep outside for the past two nights.
The Department of Health in Limpopo also confirmed that they have not provided the tickets. They claim that an affordable service provider has to be identified before the students can be brought home. They have also indicated that a further 73 students currently in Cuba await funding to travel home.
This is unacceptable.
The nine students who we have had contact with should have been flown back to South Africa three weeks ago to commence their final year training. The students have allegedly been contacting the Department every day for the past three weeks. They have continually been told that the issue would be resolved the next day. No clear reasons have apparently been given for the delays.
The Limpopo Provincial Health Department was responsible for arranging their tickets home. The Department has cited a lack of funds as the reason they cannot purchase the tickets and have indicated that they are engaging with the National Department of Health.
How can we send our children to study in a foreign land to bring much needed skills back to South Africa, but not bother with budgeting to bring them home? This incompetence cannot be tolerated.
The Limpopo Health Department has been under national administration since December last year. The National Department of Health is therefore in a position to ensure that urgent steps are taken.
I will be contacting the Minister of Health to ask for an urgent resolution of this matter. I will also be contacting the Department of International Relations and Co-Operation to ensure that appropriate support is being provided to the students while health officials fix their mistakes.
Our students must be kept safe and brought home.