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Minister praises Cuban medical workers for helping SA “in our time of need”


The Northern Cape Department of Health has attested to the invaluable contribution of the Covid-19 personnel from the Cuban brigade – Mkhize

Eleven Cuban doctors were deployed in the Northern Cape. Picture: Soraya Crowie

HEALTH Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has heaped praise on the Cuban Medical Brigade deployed to various parts of the country, including the Northern Cape, to reinforce South Africa’s fight against Covid-19.

On Friday, Mkhize was joined by Cuban ambassador HE Radolfo Benitez Verson as he reflected on the role played by the brigade.

The more than 100 medical professionals were deployed to districts across the country where they worked alongside South African medical staff in hospitals, clinics and isolation facilities.

Mkhize said the Eastern Cape had been allocated 12 medical officers, four biomedical engineers, two epidemiologists and two biostatisticians whose data analytics and information management had been key in assessing the impact of intervention strategies.

He said the biomedical engineers had been critical in the design, installation, adjusting, repairing and provision of technical support for biomedical equipment.

“In Gauteng, members of the Cuban Medical Brigade were distributed throughout all five districts and some have been doing work with the central office. They are mainly working in quarantine and isolation sites, ward-based contract tracing, epidemiological surveillance and in hospitals,” Mkhize said.

The team assigned to the Northern Cape conducted outreach services in critical areas.

Mkhize said they were clinical leaders to the management teams and assisted in the screening, testing and quarantining of patients.

“The Northern Cape Department of Health has attested to the invaluable contribution of the Covid-19 personnel from the brigade,” he said.

Mkhize said the team deployed to Limpopo had helped to boost case management.

“Three clinical engineering technologists, one hygienist and one biostatistician were stationed in Capricorn District. The deployments were based on areas where it was identified that there was a shortage of human resources. Their presence has reduced workload and pressure on staff members, provided much-needed relief, improved processing of data and contributed to improved data reporting that feeds into the daily situational report on Covid-19 in the province,” Mkhize said.

He said the health technologists had been a big help in the assessment of non-functional equipment.

“A team of 28 medical professionals were deployed to the Western Cape where they worked with planning, execution and management of public health. They were fully integrated into the clinical teams working alongside the South African health professionals in order to strengthen the province’s response to Covid-19.”

Mkhize noted that several of the Cuban health care professionals had worked in South Africa before and so were familiar with the country’s systems.

In the Free State, where 17 members of the brigade were deployed, their allocation addressed issues of staff shortage and this also led to an improvement in data collation in the province.

He said while this was not an exhaustive account of the brigade’s activities, there was reassurance that the country had invested well in the initiative during a critical phase of the national Covid-19 outbreak.

“We are very privileged to be joined by members of the Cuban brigade here today. It is an honour to be among compatriots who have tirelessly worked in the front line alongside our fellow countrymen in the health care sector. We thank you for answering the call during one of the toughest seasons experienced in modern times and we hope that this has been a fruitful and inspirational period for you all,” Mkhize said.

The decision to seek assistance in the form of a Cuban Medical Brigade was met with much scrutiny. It was previously reported that South Africa spent more than R239 million on the health care workers’ salaries.

It was reported that the contingent included: 116 family physicians, whose salaries total R172 767 798; 32 health technologists, whose salaries total R25 941 166; 18 epidemiology technologists, whose salaries total R14 715 735; 13 biostatisticians, whose salaries total R19 566 449; five biomedical engineers, whose salaries total R2 773 887; two public health specialists, whose salaries total R2 231 276; and one nurse, whose salary is R528 852. This brings the total salaries to R239 181 933.