Who is footing the bill for Cuban doctor programme?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Department of Health to clarify the true cost of the Cuban doctors’ deployment which is said to be nearly R440 million as well as who will be footing the bill?

Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, attempted to explain the rationale for obtaining foreign aid during a press conference last night however many questions remain unanswered.

Chief among these is where this R440 million will be coming from and whether this is a justifiable use of public resources.

I have submitted parliamentary questions to obtain this information urgently.

Information that we have suggests that National Treasury is looking to the provinces that will be getting Cuban health doctors allocated to them to fund the endeavor. Many provinces are stretched to their absolute limits with many unfilled critical vacancies. It would be irresponsible to expect funds to be redirected to funding the deployment of these doctors.

In addition, many other questions remain unanswered. These are:

  • Was a skills audit done in the country to find out what critical skills were needed that the local health professionals did not have;
  • Did this audit inform which specialists were requested from Cuba;
  • Is the alleged R440 million a prudent use of limited resources in fighting this pandemic; and
  • Why were health professionals’ bodies not consulted about the move so that they can assist in ensuring all South Africa professionals are in fact used sufficiently in the fight against this pandemic;

Every effort must be made to wage a fight against the spread of this pandemic. Additionally, we welcome any additional resources being provided. However, we must make sure that South African health professionals are not being overlooked in the Covid-19 strategy. We need to ensure that every doctor, specialist and any other needed health professional is put to work as a priority before any other healthcare worker from elsewhere in the world.

This is why urgent clarity is needed from Dr Mkhize.