DA requests Cuban medical programme annual report from Health Minister

Issued by Haseena Ismail MP – DA Member on the Portfolio Committee of Health
14 Nov 2022 in News

The DA has written to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to request the annual report of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration programme as promised.

The programme has courted controversy for a number of years with health experts like Prof Shabir Madhi, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, saying that “many provinces continue to fund students to undertake studies in other countries, including Cuba, under the pretext of SA not being able to train enough doctors, which is incoherent with the policy of not listing medical skills under the critical skills set”.

While the programme might have originated from a genuine goal of strengthening South Africa’s health sector, it seems the most recent use is, another avenue to ensure funds are routed to Cuba. Just over the past few years, the ANC government has tried every trick in the book to ensure taxpayer money reach Cuban shores – from illegally importing Interferon (Heberon Alpha-2B) via the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Operation Thusano, which has made payments of R1.4 billion to Cuba; extending a R63 million ‘Economic Assistance Package’ loan to Cuba in the previous financial year; the cumulative R308 million to employ 229 doctors and 65 Cuban engineers; to the R50 million in food donation, which formed part of larger donation of R350 million.

With a critical skills shortage of 27 000 in the health sector, South Africa needs every qualified doctor. But given its astronomical cost, the Department of Health’s unwillingness to ensure other foreign-trained doctors are registered, the annual chaos of placing community service doctors, and the relatively small number of Cuban graduates it is clear that the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration programme deserves close scrutiny.

The DA hopes for an urgent response from Minister Phaahla.