The annual cost of training a South African to become a doctor in Cuba is R331 000, more than double what it would amount to at a local medical school, the Democratic Alliance said on Monday.
The party’s shadow member of the executive council for health (MEC) in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, cited the province’s substantive health MEC Bandile Masuku as defending the extra expense because “Cuba trains students who find it difficult to be accepted in South African universities”.
Bloom quoted Masuku as saying in a written response to questions in the provincial legislature that students trained in Cuba were taught in a health system that produced better outcomes than the system in South Africa as it promoted disease prevention in its approach
Training in Cuba takes six years, including a year learning Spanish, and the students have to spend a final year at a medical school in South Africa, Bloom noted.
“This means that the full cost to train a doctor on the Cuban program amounts to about R2 136 000 compared to R900 000 in South Africa in a shorter time,” he said.
“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.”
Bloom said the Gauteng health department had budgeted about R130 million this year for 400 medical students in Cuba, money which would be better spent expanding training at the three medical schools in the province.
“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,” he added.