Cuban Health Specialists arrive in South Africa to support efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 – Photo: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

Mkhize lauds Cuban doctors aiding SA’s COVID-19 response

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was giving an update on the work and deployment of over 200 doctors who arrived here in April.


Cuban Health Specialists arrive in South Africa to support efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 – Photo: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

The Cuban medical team who are in South Africa to assist in the battle against Covid-19 marks another “seminal moment” between the two countries, he said.

“Whilst we understand that there may be issues of culture and language barriers, we have learnt over the years of fruitful partnerships with Cuban medical expertise, that patience is a virtue and that the investment is part of a long-term strategy,” said South Africa’s health minister.

Where are the Cuban doctors working?

Mkhize said 4 biomedical engineers, 2 epidemiologists, and 2 biostatisticians were deployed to the Eastern Cape.

“Their data analytics and information management has been key in assessing the impact of intervention strategies. The biomedical engineers have been critical in the design, installation, adjusting, repairing and provision of technical support for biomedical equipment.”

In Gauteng, members of the Cuban group are working throughout all five districts, with some placed at the central office. They are mainly working in quarantine and isolation sites, ward-based contract tracing, epidemiological surveillance, and in hospitals where there has been noticeable nosocomial spread.

Mkhize explained in the Northern Cape, the Cuban doctors are mainly serving as clinical leaders in outreach services, assisting in the screening, testing and quarantining of patients.

In Limpopo, eight medical officers have been despatched to various facilities in five districts to bolster case management efforts.

Three clinical engineering technologists, one hygienist and one biostatistician are stationed in the Capricorn district.

“Their presence has reduced workload and pressure on staff members, provided much needed relief, improved processing of data and contributed to improved data reporting that feeds into the daily situational report on Covid-19 in the province. The heath technologists have greatly assisted with the assessment of non-functional equipment,” he said.

Mkhize said the 28-strong team deployed to the Western Cape were health professionals with experience in planning, execution and management of public health systems.

He said they were fully integrated into the clinical teams working alongside South African health professionals to strengthen the province’s response to Covid-19.

Seventeen members of the team were sent to the Free State to focus on staff shortages, which, Mkize said, had led to an improvement in data collation.

“Whilst this is not an exhaustive account of the activities of the members of the brigade, the reports reassure us that we have invested well in this initiative with trusted allies during a critical phase of the national Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mkhize pointed to the Cuba Doctor Training Programme, initiated by former presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, both now late, which has produced over 2900 doctors who studied in Cuba between 2012 and 2019.

“This year over 650 graduates from this programme will be absorbed into the South African health care system.”

“We have no doubt that this investment will leave a lasting legacy in our growing democracy and will help to pave the way towards the ideals that we share of delivering quality health care to all people, regardless of race, colour or creed,” said Mkhize.