The annual cost of training South Africans to become a doctor in Cuba is R331 000, which is more than double the cost at a local medical school, which is R150 000.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
Masuku defends the extra expense because “Cuba trains students who find it difficult to be accepted in South African universities but had good Gr 12 bachelors pass. In this way Cuba trained more doctors required for the South African health system than the current teachIng and training platform in South Africa.”
He says furthermore that “students trained in Cuba are trained in a health system that produces better health outcomes than the heath system in South Africa as it is a more disease prevention and health promotive in its approach.”
Training in Cuba is for six years, which includes a year learning Spanish, and they also need to spend another year finalizing their training at a medical school in South Africa.
This means that the full cost to train a doctor on the Cuban programme amounts to about R2 136 000, compared to R900 000 in South Africa in a shorter time.
I am disappointed that Masuku continues to defend this programme which is so expensive that the National Health Department decided last year to downsize it drastically. He claims strangely that there is an advantage in learning Spanish as the students have a better understanding of language, but the use of Spanish locally is virtually non-existent.
The Gauteng Health Department has budgeted about R130 million this year for 400 medical students in Cuba.
It would be far better to spend this money to expand training at the three medical schools in Gauteng.
We should surely train more doctors locally rather than pay an exorbitant amount for overseas training that still requires an extra year of local training.