medicaldoctorSowetan writes that, with 80% of all specialists in South Africa concentrated in the private healthcare sectors of the Western Cape and Gauteng, the public sector is struggling with a shortage of an estimated 20,000 health specialists.  

This was revealed by Prof Yusuf Veriava, who sits on the ministerial academic review committee of the Nelson Mandela / Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration.  The partnership sends South African doctors to Cuba for medical training.  “[In] the rural areas, the doctor to-patient ratio is estimated at 0.77 per 1 000 – that’s just one practising doctor for every 4 219 people,” said Veriava.  There are 508 Cuban-trained SA graduates currently practising in the country, while 2,967 students are currently studying in Cuba.  The national department of health is restructuring the partnership to better serve the public healthcare shortfalls. Joe Maila, spokesman for the programme, said:  “We’re adjusting the programme to be manageable by sending students for training in cycles, meaning we won’t be sending the same big number every year.  However, we are open to opportunities to send students to other places.”  Veriava commented:  “While we need to ensure medical care standards are not compromised, we’re facing a major skills shortage and need all the practising professionals we can get.  Administrative delays and so on cannot be accepted as excuses any longer.”

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