The Ministry of Health still pays high salaries to expert Cuban doctors, despite expired contracts and unemployed local doctors, with many vacant positions frozen.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng shadow health MEC, Jack Bloom said the department spent R30.3 million on Cuban doctors last year and still employs 14 who earn between R78 000 and R91 000 per month.
He said the government’s misguided loyalty to Cuba was outdated and also claimed that 10 trainee doctors at Chris Hani-Baragwanath University Hospital are “suffering” because they have not been paid this year.
“They are doing invaluable work in 12-hour shifts, but the situation is getting desperate as some are starving and have no money for transportation,” Bloom said.
Health MEC Dr. Nomathemba Mokgethi said some Cuban doctors were still employed because of a government-to-government agreement with South Africa in 1996. She confirmed that 14 Cuban doctors were in primary health care centers.
“Cuba is known as a country for the best health outcomes and its experience in prevention and health promotion would help strengthen the district health system,” she said.
“The Cuban National Doctors also serve as mentors and coaches for the physicians placed in primary care, especially the South African-trained physicians in Cuba.”
Bloom said the contract for the 28 Cuban doctors employed on a one-year contract in May 2020 expired in May last year.
“It is disappointing that the department still employs 14 of them when local doctors are out of work,” he said, adding that some Cuban doctors did not speak English well and were unfamiliar with local health issues.
“I don’t see these Cuban doctors doing anything the local doctors couldn’t do,” he said.
Bloom said the department should be spending on South Africans rather than wasting on Cuban doctors and that expensive Cuban medical training was being investigated for alleged corruption.
“It’s no surprise, but there’s something really weird about it because we have unemployed local doctors and unoccupied medical posts,” he said.
He said health workers who worked during the pandemic will be laid off at the end of the month.
“There are vacancies, why don’t we fill them, but spend money on Cuban doctors?” he asked.
AfriForum’s campaign officer Reinier Duvenage said there is a long history of extremely questionable cooperation and relations between South Africa and Cuba.
“We saw this during the Covid [pandemic]the scandal in which Cuban medical personnel were employed to fight the pandemic costing millions of rands while our doctors remained unemployed,” he said.
Duvenage said SA also saw the hydraulic engineering scandal when the government announced it would hire Cuban water engineers to fix the country’s water infrastructure.
“Ultimately we have good engineers in that area, it’s just very questionable,” he said.
Duvenage said he would not forget that the SA National Defense Force had irregularly bought Covid drugs worth R228 million that they had to return.
“The new [R50 million] donation to Cuba is just the next in this deeply disturbing series of events,” he said.
Duvenage said the donation to Cuba was a huge insult to the The Vanir-exoduss. “We have a serious problem with poverty here and the government just abandoned its The Vanir-exoduss and donated this money to another company,” he said.