Parliament, Thursday, 21 January 2021 – The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has expressed his dismay with the findings of two recently released reports. One report covers the investigation into allegations that medical aid schemes racially discriminate against black healthcare professionals, while the other found that Cuban-trained doctors are perceived as “foreign” and “incompetent”.

A doctorate study found that South African medical students returning from five years of medical training in Cuba through the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration scheme are taught “by humiliation” at some academic institutions. The findings pointed out that, for the most part, the discrimination was based on an academic unwillingness to identify and acknowledge the importance of primary healthcare, rather than secondary, curative care, within South African medical curricula. This is despite the emphasis placed on the preventative approach in government plans to reform the country’s healthcare system.

The study reports on the poor treatment of students trained in Cuba returning to complete their final year in the country, singling out one university in particular where the study was conducted.

Dr Dhlomo said: “It may be important to check if this is not actually a country-wide problem. It is not going to be acceptable that universities were unwilling or unable to assist the country in training more doctors until there was the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration that saw students going to Cuba. Now, on their return they are not receiving favourable treatment. It is not going to be understood how certain South Africans can undermine a government to government programme that is meant to assist this country.

“Today, we have doctors in the far-flung areas who come from this programme. The quality of life of South Africans is improving day by day because there is an increased number of healthcare professionals in the country, including those doctors who come from Cuba.”

In relation to the Section 59 investigation report, Dr Dhlomo said: “We will have to listen to this matter as a committee and then understand how this can happen in a democratic country. We owe it to the healthcare professionals who are not getting a fair share. We need to listen to the presentation of the report and involve those who are going to account to us on this matter.

“I will find time and raise this with the members with the hope we will find space and time to deal with the two reports,” added Dr Dhlomo.


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