Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Saturday welcomed 260 Cuban trained medical students back into the country.
The Minister accompanied by his deputy Joe Phaahla, together with families and loved ones welcomed back the medical students at a ceremony held at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday evening.
Smiles as well as big hugs were the order of the day at the ceremony.
The medical students will complete their final sixth-year studies and integration into the South African health system, as part of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro (NMFC) medical collaboration programme of the Department of Health.
South Africa and Cuba have maintained longstanding diplomatic relations since 1994 that resulted in various bilateral agreements on public health including the training of South African medical students in Cuba to sustain the health system.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Victoria de Giron Medical Institute in Cuba, last month, Minister in the Presidency, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the medical graduates from the NMFC programme in Cuba is a boost for the country’s efforts to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI).
The NMFC programme was forged by Presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro in 1996 as part of the various bilateral agreements between South Africa and Cuba.
The return of the students and last month’s graduation comes as South Africa will in a few days celebrate the Mandela Centenary, had he lived the founding father of South Africa would have turned 100 on 18 July.
The programme was established to address the over-concentration of health personnel in urban areas and in the exclusionary private sector; insufficient personnel who were also not in possession of the necessary training and the under-provision of health care in rural and peri-urban areas, as well as informal settlements.
It links with South Africa’s efforts to provide universal health care – regardless of economic standing – to all its citizens through the NHI. – SAnews.gov.za