Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize had asked Cuba and China through the World Health Organisation to send doctors to the country.
The medical practitioners may start arriving as soon as next week.
The request is a sequel to a working meeting between Mkhize and the Cuban ambassador to South Africa, Rodolfo Benitez Verson, on 24 March.
The discussions, attended by Cuban chief of the Medical Brigade in South Africa Dr Reynaldo Denis de Armas, looked at exchanges between the two countries and how Cuba could assist in the fight against the coronavirus.Currently more than 200 Cuban doctors are deployed in eight South African provinces except the DA-run Western Cape, which declined to participate in the South Africa-Cuba medical doctors’ training programme.
The doctors had been working at various medical facilities providing general and specialist medical needs. Now with Covid-19 in South Africa the doctors have been providing assistance including patient care, medical examinations, transferring of samples and other services to stem the spread of the virus.
A large number of Cuban doctors were recently dispatched to Italy, which has been ravaged by Covid-19, and more have been sent to other countries. More than 700 South African medical students trained under the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Cooperative Program initiated by the two leaders several years ago are expected to graduate soon.
The department said this was the largest graduation of doctors in South African history.
Numerous calls had been made by many within the ANC for Mkhize to ask Havana to send doctors to the country due to the increasing number of infections and deaths due to coronavirus. South Africa has cordial relations with both Cuba and China, which were established post-1994.
Irate ANC opposition leader in the Western Cape legislature Cameron Dugmore has written to Premier Alan Winde expressing concern that the province might not be able to benefit from the deployment of the Cuban doctors as result of DA policy.
Dugmore said the ANC in the Western Cape welcomed the Cubans to come to the Western Cape because they had the best medical skills to deal with the pandemic.
“A major concern for us is that the province has not been part of the national project to send our students to train in Cuba as doctors. We are thus concerned that the Western Cape government will once against decide not to be part of this initiative which offers support from Cuba,” Dugmore wrote.
He urged Winde, in the interest of getting the best medical expertise to stem the virus in the Western Cape, to welcome the doctors if they were deployed in the province. The ANC MP said they had realised during their oversight visits that many rural communities in the Karoo did not have enough doctors.
“Extra doctors from Cuba and China would no doubt be of assistance in urban communities like Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and other Cape Flats communities in need of additional medical practitioners. I urge you to put the best interest of the people of the Western Cape ahead of any ideological objections your party might have with Cuba,” said Dugmore.
By Erice Naki - email@example.com