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Limpopo students to study medicine in Cuba

One hundred students from Limpopo are expected to fly to Cuba within the next week to study medicine as part of a programme aimed at tackling a shortage of doctors in that province.

Provincial health spokesperson Macks Lesufi said the department has, since 1999, sent over 190 students to study in Cuba and some have already returned to serve communities of Limpopo as qualified doctors.

“This move is part of a long standing partnership between South Africa and Cuba to assist each other in the field of medicine. Furthermore, the agreement between the two countries also encompasses Cuba sending its own doctors to work in Limpopo to ease the burden of shortages of medical personnel,” said Lesufi.

He said 100 students are expected to leave on three flights between Saturday and next Wednesday.
Premier Stanley Mathabatha will bid the students farewell on Friday morning at a function at the Pietersburg Hospital Recreational Hall.

A 2007 study by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA), found that Limpopo has only 2.1 doctors per 10 000 people – slightly above the average of one doctor per 10 000 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 23 doctors per 10 000 people.

In a more recent 2012 study, the Institute of Race Relations found that at 86%, Limpopo has the highest public sector doctor vacancy rate in the country, followed by the Northern Cape at 57% and the Eastern Cape at 48%. The lowest vacancy rate was in North West at 26%, while the whole country was standing at 56% vacancy rate.

While signing the RSA-Cuban Medical Training Programme last year, Deputy Minister of Health Dr Gwen Ramokgopa acknowledged that South Africa is short of more than 20 000 doctors. She said the programme has been identified as one of the initiatives that will decrease this shortage. – SAnews.gov.za