Cuban medical brigade arrives in Eastern Cape

Cuban health specialists have arrived in the Eastern Cape to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Cuban health specialists have arrived in the Eastern Cape to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Image: GCIS

The Eastern Cape on Sunday received a much needed shot in the arm when the Cuban medical brigade arrived in East London after spending more than two weeks in isolation in the North West province.

Totalling 20, they comprise 10 general practitioners, two epidemiologists, four biomedical engineers and four bio-statisticians, also known as information management specialists.

Welcoming the Cuban entourage during a short ceremony in East London, health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said the brigade would be drafted across the province once they had completed a week-long induction, starting on Monday.

Gomba said the induction  would bring them up to speed with where the province is in the fight against the coronavirus.

“We’ve agreed with their co-ordinator that we’ll put them through an orientation week, and that at the end of the week we’ll have a list that’s speaks to the deployment of the brigade,”  Gomba said.

The brigade would be drafted to Covid-19 hotspots around the province, including BCM and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

“We have doctors who are dealing with Covid-19. So it’s critical that we bring them in one room, because these doctors come from Cuba, without any understanding of the Eastern Cape.

“So the week will be about that, but after that we should all be able to understand each other and the task in front us. Then we’ll be able to deal with the deployment of the doctors to epicentres that we have.”

According to statistics, by Saturday night the Eastern Cape had recorded 32 Covid-19 related fatalities, KwaZulu-Natal 45, the Western Cape 149, and Gauteng 25 deaths. 

“We don’t want to leave out Chris Hani district because it has potential [for infections to rise] and those areas will feature prominently in the deployment of the doctors.”

“The deployment will range in terms of the need in those areas,”  Gomba said.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane said they were focusing on containing the spread of Covid-19 by ramping up their screening, testing and contact tracing, as well as quarantine and isolation.

He said the brigade was “not here to take anyone’s job”.

“We can’t have a doctor that is said to be unemployed. If there’s an unemployed doctor out there, or one who just graduated, they must come to work on Monday,”  Mabuyane said.

The leader of the Cuban brigade, Dr Odalys McCalla, who has worked for more than 20 years in SA, said all the medical specialists were experienced in dealing with virus outbreaks.

“These doctors have experience they are going to share with SA doctors and also learn,”  McCalla said.

“We have a cosmopolitan group of doctors and engineers, and most of them have worked with other epidemics like Ebola.”

BCM mayor Xola Pakati said:  “This act of solidarity by the Cuban people continues to show great levels of human solidarity that is unparalleled across the world.”

“We are looking forward to working with the Cuban medical brigade in confronting this global pandemic.

“This act of solidarity continues to prove to us that we need to work together to fight this virus,” Pakati said.

The ANC Youth League’s OR Tambo regional convener, Mawande Ndakisa, welcomed the Cuban delegation and applauded Gomba “for the leadership role” she played, and for “correcting some of the deficiencies that nearly corroded her good work”.

DR WB Rubusana region’s ANC Youth League regional task team convener Sthembiso Khanyile also welcomed the delegation saying it would bolster existing efforts to arrest the pandemic.

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