High cost to train doctors in Cuba

By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:

The Gauteng Health Department is spending R70.5 million this year on 80 students to study medicine in Cuba, which is much higher than the cost of training doctors in South Africa.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mahlangu, it will take 8 years in total for them to qualify as doctors who can practice in South Africa as they will have to do an extra two years of integration of studies at a local medical university.

The first students who will do the extra two-year course will be in 2019.

So far, only 25 South Africans have trained as doctors in Cuba and qualified to practice in Gauteng.

The number of students sent to Cuba for medical training in previous years has been higher, but at a lower average cost per student:

  • 2012 – 105 students at a cost of R25.6 million;
  • 2013 – 115 students at a cost of R33 million; and
  • 2014 – 138 students at a cost of R37.2 million.

The University of Cape Town estimated in 2012 that it cost R1.3 million to train a South African doctor in 6 years.

In previous years, it has cost about R1.6 million to train a doctor in Cuba, excluding the cost of extra training in South Africa.

The figure spent this year is much higher, at about R875 000 per student, which over six years would amount to more than R5 million.

Whatever the true cost, it is substantially higher than in local medical schools.

This is why the Western Cape Health Department has declined to participate in sending students to study in Cuba.

The Gauteng Health Department should review the doctor training programme in Cuba as the money is better spent in increasing the local capacity to train doctors.

Local training is also shorter and geared to local conditions.

Our priority is surely to train more doctors locally rather than paying another country an exorbitant amount for a course taught in a foreign language that still requires an extra two years local training.

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