KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo will on Friday welcome KZN students as they return from Cuba and reunite with their families.
Dhlomo expressed his excitement at the impending return Friday evening of the second group of fifth-year medical students from Cuba.
They are part of the 260 who left the country in 2012, and are finally coming back home to complete their studies and then graduate as fully-fledged doctors.
“As government, we are implementing National Health Insurance, which focuses on primary healthcare. These students, coming back as doctors trained in Cuba, are driven by that as a way of life: primary healthcare, health promotion, health education, prevention of diseases, all of which is exciting for us as South Africa,” said Dhlomo.
Dhomo said the homecoming of the Cuba-trained students will increase the province’s capacity to deliver healthcare to the public, including in far-flung rural areas where the global shortage of doctors was felt more acutely and they will bring a new approach to healthcare provision that was centred on disease prevention and health education and promotion, in line with the Cuban healthcare model.
“Starting from 01 August 2018, these students will begin their final sixth-year studies and integration into the South African health system, as part of the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro medical collaboration programme of the Department of Health,” said Dlomo.
He said the return of the students was an important milestone in the country’s history and was opportune as it comes on the eve of the centenary celebrations of liberation of the lives of Struggle luminaries Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.
Once they graduate, they will then start working in their districts of origin, literally meaning that their mostly poor communities will have access to more doctors than ever before.
On Sunday, Dhlomo welcomed the first group of 102 students amid fanfare, with parents, relatives, and the students themselves crying tears of joy. Similar scenes were expected to play out when the second group lands at O.R. Tambo International Airport on Friday at 16h45 and then board the next airplane to King Shaka International Airport in Durban.
The last remaining 50 students are due to return on 19 July.