The Free State government has its own bilateral agreement with Cuba to train the province’s doctors, with the provincial health department having spent R57 million on this programme.
The programme has come under fire, with the Democratic Alliance claiming the annual cost of training a South African to become a doctor in Cuba is R331,000 – more than double what it would cost at a local medical school, and it takes longer.
The party claimed training a doctor in Cuba takes six years, including a year learning Spanish, and that the students have to spend a final year at a medical school in South Africa.
Free State provincial health department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said they initially sent 211 students to Cuba, but 33 students dropped out, while one died on the streets of the island’s capital Havana in August last year.
He said the first 114 students returned last year to start their 18-month integration programme to enable them to understand the South African health landscape in which they would be expected to practise.
Mvambi said these students had just completed their integration and had been sent home for the December holidays.
“They are expected back in January when, depending on their success rate in the assessment, they would be sent to various health institutions in SA to serve in the two-year compulsory internship programme,” he said.
Mvambi said another 43, who were the second cohort of students to complete their studies in Cuba, returned to SA in July to also start their integration.
There were 20 students still in Cuba.
Mvambi said they were expecting a positive yield from the investment because the Cuban-trained doctors would not have had a chance in South Africa due to limited space in medical schools.