The Free State is expecting a total of 161 students to arrive back in the country on 18 July 2018. These are students who have been studying medicine in Cuba over the past few years. These students will complete their final sixth-year studies and their integration into the South African health system as part of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro (NMFC) medical collaboration programme of the Department of Health.
The soon-to-be doctors were welcomed last Saturday, 7 July 2018, at a ceremony held at OR Tambo International Airport. They were welcomed home by ANC Secretary-General and former FS premier, Ace Magashule, Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, current FS Premier, Sefora Ntombela, Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla, FS MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Sam Mashinini, KZN MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, as well as Cuban Ambassador in South Africa, Rodolfo Benites Version.
117 of these students are in their final fifth year. “They will be doing the 18-month integration programme in the Free State and at various South African universities. And 44 fourth-year students are here to do their electives,” explained FS Health spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi.
He added that the 44 students will be here for electives, which will take about a month, and they will be doing them at Free State health facilities. “We see these young soon-to-be doctors as the backbone of the preventative primary health care. This is one of the fundamentals of the transformation of our health system from hospital centered curative to a disease-free preventative system,” said Mvambi.
The Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Scholarship Programme is an effort to curb the scourge of scarcity of doctors and medical professionals faced by the country. “We aspire to be in the same league as Cuba with respect to elimination of diseases. Cuba has no maternal and neonatal deaths. They are an envy of the world with respect to their preventative health care. MEC Montsheng Tsiu is committed to ensuring that these students have a job when they come back that is why the government has been so committed to ensuring that we secure our investment in these doctors,” he added.
The Free State Provincial Government, along with the premier, Sefora Ntombela, are expected to host the provincial home welcoming celebration on 30 July 2018 at the Dr Molemela Indoor Sport Centre in Mangaung.