Cuban boost for ru­ral health

Vuk'uzenzele - - Youhtehalftohcus - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

A HEALTH co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment be­tween South Africa and Cuba is help­ing to ad­dress South Africa’s short­age of ru­ral doc­tors.

Nh­lanhla Khuzwayo, from an im­pov­er­ished home in Ozwathini, KwaZulu-Natal, stood very lit­tle chance of be­com­ing a doc­tor. How­ever, his life has changed thanks to the Nel­son Man­dela Fidel Cas­tro Train­ing Pro­gramme.

The med­i­cal train­ing pro­gramme seeks to ad­dress the short­age of doc­tors in the coun­try by send­ing young as­pi­rant doc­tors from poor com­mu­ni­ties for med­i­cal train­ing at a Cuban univer­sity. Since the in­cep­tion of the pro­gramme in 1996, 590 doc­tors have qual­i­fied and are now work­ing in the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties from where they come.

Khuzwayo (22) is cur­rently study­ing medicine in Cuba, and is more than half­way to­wards re­al­is­ing his dream of be­com­ing a doc­tor. He is among 302 med­i­cal stu­dents who are cur­rently be­ing trained in Cuba.

In his fourth year of study­ing, Khuzwayo was re­cently back in South Africa for a de­brief­ing ses­sion with Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo. He also spent two weeks get­ting prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence at Ap­pels­bosch Hos­pi­tal in his home prov­ince. “Study­ing to be­come a med­i­cal doc­tor is a great op­por­tu­nity that I might not have had, had it not been for this pro­gramme. Study­ing in Cuba has made me re­alise how for­tu­nate I’ve been to get this rare op­por­tu­nity to study free of charge. I am very grate­ful to the provin­cial Depart­ment of Health,” he said.

Re­flect­ing on the ex­pe­ri­ence of do­ing his prac­ti­cals at Ap­pels­bosch, he said he ini­tially felt ap­pre­hen­sive. “I was given my own con­sul­ta­tion room and I thought I would sit and wait for the doc­tor. I was amazed when I was told that I’m the sec­ond doc­tor on call.”

He added that hu­mil­ity is a key part of be­ing a doc­tor. “Re­spect ev­ery­one, be­cause ev­ery­one re­spects a doc­tor.

“This pro­gramme is go­ing to pro­duce a large num­ber of doc­tors. We are go­ing to make a very big dif­fer­ence,” said Khuzwayo.

MEC Dhlomo said the suc­cess and im­pact of the part­ner­ship be­tween South Africa and Cuba had drawn the at­ten­tion of first world coun­tries.

“The rea­son why gov­ern­ments in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries such as ours and the An­golans and many oth­ers hold Cuba in such high re­gard is be­cause of the high qual­ity of med­i­cal train­ing that the Cubans of­fer.

“Their ap­proach to health­care is dif­fer­ent in that it pro­motes dis­ease pre­ven­tion in­stead of fo­cus­ing on cure, which is un­sus­tain­able.

“As a re­sult, their health out­comes are ex­cel­lent,” said MEC Dhlomo.

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