South African Medical Association

Media Release: SA Medical Association concerned about Cuban health specialists' arrival in South Africa

28 April 2020

SA Medical Association concerned about Cuban health specialists’ arrival in South Africa

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) notes with concern the arrival of 217 health specialists from Cuba at Air Force Base Waterkloof on Sunday the 26th of April. The Cuban health specialists will assist in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The deployment of the Cuban specialists comes after a request by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel

“While we are not averse to the so-called Cuban Brigade assisting us, we feel strongly that the principle of not engaging with SAMA – as the biggest representative body of doctors in the country – is flawed and wrong,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of SAMA.

Dr Coetzee says that in light of the current poor economic environment in the country, the money spent on bringing the Cuban specialists to South Africa would have been better spent on first employing local doctors who have the necessary skills and experience to drive this process, especially in rural areas. There are many unemployed doctors in South Africa and many community service medical officers have still not been placed. In addition, many private practitioners have indicated their willingness to assist.

South Africa has many public and private health specialists, family physicians, epidemiologists who would have heeded the president’s call for assistance during this very challenging period. SAMA, through its various societies would have been able to source local expertise before this was sought overseas and the cost of employing the expertise may have been mitigated.
“Retired doctors can be brought back into the service delivery system - even for a short time. They can also mentor younger doctors who lack the necessary experience and skills. Only when we have exhausted all our internal human resources should a consultative process between SAMA, the Department of Health and the Presidency been initiated to bring the Cuban specialists to South Africa,” says Dr Coetzee.

She adds that SAMA finds it unacceptable that silo approaches have been followed with regards to the decision to bring the Cuban specialists to South Africa. She says SAMA will request a meeting with the Minister of Health to express its unhappiness on the processes and principals involved.

Notes to Editors
About SAMA
The South African Medical Association was formally constituted on 21 May 1998 as a unification of a variety of doctors’ groups that had represented a diversity of interests. SAMA is a non-statutory, professional association for public, and private sector medical practitioners. SAMA is a voluntary membership association, existing to serve the best interests and needs of its members in any and all healthcare related matter

Acting Head of PR & Communications
Mr Vernon Kinnear
084 511 0484

Spokesperson 1
Vice-Chairperson: SAMA
Dr M Mzukwa
076 382 8152

Spokesperson 2
Chairperson: SAMA
Dr A Coetzee
082 379 8118

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