A question mark hangs over the future of SA’s massive programme for training medical students in Cuba, which will see about 700 fifth-year students returning home in July to complete the last leg of their training.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Business Day the programme was so large it was a headache for both countries and a decision had been taken in the National Health Council to scale it back temporarily. The programme would lapse for three years to relieve pressure on the system but would not stop entirely, he said.
“The Cuban government is not … coping with these numbers, the provinces in their budgeting systems did not factor it very well, and it is too much for the South African universities to absorb. It means increasing the final-year medical students by 60% at a go,” he said.
SA’s medical schools graduate about 1,800 students a year, says Martin Veller, who chairs the South African Committee of Medical Deans. The scale of the Cuban-trained students returning in July posed a challenge to medical schools and provincial health departments, he said. A total of 750 students were trained in Cuba since the programme’s inception in the mid-1990s.— Business Day