Pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged youth qual­ify as med­i­cal doc­tors

Vuk'uzenzele - - Youhtehalftohcus - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

YouNG south Africans study­ing medicine in Cuba will make a dif­fer­ence to the coun­try’s pri­mary health­care sys­tem.

tears flowed from Mdu­miseni Mkhize’s eyes, a for­mer painter from Port Shep­stone on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, when he grad­u­ated as med­i­cal doc­tor af­ter six years of study in Cuba.

Mkhize (28) is one of 70 young doc­tors from poverty stricken com­mu­ni­ties whose lives have changed af­ter train­ing and qual­i­fy­ing as med­i­cal doc­tors at the Nel­son Man­dela Fidel Cas­tro Med­i­cal Train­ing pro­gramme in Cuba. The grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony was re­cently held at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal.

The pro­gramme seeks to ad­dress the short­age of doc­tors in the coun­try. Since its in­cep­tion in 1998, 590 doc­tors have qual­i­fied and are work­ing in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Mkhize said he hoped his grad­u­a­tion will in­spire other stu­dents who do not have money to not lose hope.

“When I fin­ished ma­tric in 2009, I had no money to fur­ther my stud­ies. I got a job as a painter and worked for al­most a year. When I heard about the op­por­tu­nity I ap­plied. My trip to Cuba was my first trip away from home and I had to study sub­jects in a for­eign lan­guage. I knew I could com­plain and come back home, but know­ing where I come from and where I wanted to be made me per­se­vere,” he said.

“As med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, we have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to go out there and teach pri­mary health­care to our com­mu­nity. Sim­ple things, like hand wash­ing,” he said. KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo de­scribed the stu­dents as pioneers of gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re-en­gi­neer pri­mary health­care. There are 2 885 South African med­i­cal stu­dents in Cuba, at var­i­ous lev­els of study. Over 590 doc­tors have qual­i­fied and 98 are in their fi­nal year.

South African med­i­cal stu­dents who study in Cuba spend a year learn­ing Span­ish, five years do­ing aca­demic med­i­cal stud­ies, and 18 months be­ing in­te­grated into the South African med­i­cal health sys­tem. They also un­dergo a one-year in­tern­ship.

Deputy Min­is­ter of Health Dr Joe Phaahla said the pro­gramme is achiev­ing a num­ber of crit­i­cal ob­jec­tives in sup­port­ing the trans­for­ma­tion of health in South Africa. “It strength­ens gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to en­sure a bet­ter life for all by in­creas­ing the num­ber of qual­i­fied doc­tors and im­prov­ing ac­cess to health­care in sup­port of our Na­tional Health In­sur­ance sys­tem.”

Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo (far left) with some of the 13 med­i­cal grad­u­ates from KwaZulu-Natal.

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