Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has denied claims that Cuban doctors who have been deployed in South Africa to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic have taken jobs away from local doctors.
Mkhize, together with his deputy Joe Phaahla officially welcomed Covid-19 Cuban doctors into the country, during a virtual event on Friday.
“We have a situation where we don’t have any Cuban doctor who has taken a place of the South African doctors, instead they have come to reinforce,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said there had been disorientation caused by people who claimed that Cuban doctors were brought into the country while their local counterparts remained unemployed.
He said those qualified unemployed doctors were not registered.
“We have also gone out to talk to the medical associations and asked them to give us a list of doctors who are unemployed, and we have issued an instruction (that) there are (openings), they must employ them,” he said.
He said when doctors in Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital made a request for those who were volunteering at Nasrec, he went there and said ‘bring all your volunteers to the human resources they must all be employed full time because they are available.”
“We will take any and as many South African doctors as well,” he said.
Rating the standard of local doctors as compared to Cubans, Mkhize said: “So far anyone who has got any understanding of what the differences are between our health systems in the world, Cuba is among the best.”
He said among other reasons Cuban doctors were brought into the country was because they have a special focus on community health orientated primary health care.
“We have invited the Cuban team to assist us as we needed additional reinforcement, which we will continue to look for whenever we think we need additional support in areas of a crisis such as this one (Covid-19),” he said.
He said while most of the local doctors were more oriented on curative mode of intervention, that was not the best way.
He said the best way of handling healthcare was to have doctors working within communities and “talking to communities” about their health lifestyle.
He said unlike local doctors, Cuban doctors had a comprehensive understanding of the challenges that individuals face “before you even worry about one tablet that you’re gonna give them”.
“In fact, when we said that we need to partner with Cuba we wanted to have a critical mass of doctors with that type of orientation who will be able to rebuild our health system and therefore what Cuba brings, which South Africa does not have, is the strong focus on primary healthcare.
“Right now in South Africa our strongest cadres are nurses and community health workers who are focusing on the primary healthcare side,” said Mkhize.
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