We need to put Cuban doctors to good use

The 217 Cuban specialists arrived in SA in the early hours of Monday morning. The group consists of experts in epidemiology, biostatistics and public health, family physicians, healthcare technology engineers and experts who will provide technical assistance working with local experts
The 217 Cuban specialists arrived in SA in the early hours of Monday morning. The group consists of experts in epidemiology, biostatistics and public health, family physicians, healthcare technology engineers and experts who will provide technical assistance working with local experts
Image: GCIS

They landed at the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria in the still of night.

Clad in white overalls and face masks, a group of Cuban medical professionals were brought to SA to bolster the country’s fight against Covid-19.

This as the country stands, it would seem, on the precipice of an uncontrollable breakout of the pandemic as lockdown regulations ease up slightly.

The group consists of experts in epidemiology, biostatistics  and public health, family physicians, health-care technology engineers and experts to provide technical assistance.

These are the very same people who, according to our health officials, helped the Italian government manage their Covid-19 cases. 

But, while expertise is always needed, the arrival of outside help has not gone down well with the South African Medical Association (Sama) saying it was premature. It also comes with a hefty price tag.

“Only when you have exhausted all your internal resources, then it could be prudent to get people from the outside in.

“You can bring in all the doctors, but if people don’t adhere to the rules it defies the whole purpose,” Sama chair Dr Angelique Coetzee said on the SAfm Sunrise show with Stephen Grootes.

“We are not unhappy that there are doctors coming in; we just say that it is premature and that we must first look at our own resources and look at our own people.

“It is quite a lot of money and we could have probably spent that money a little bit better.”

And, perhaps, more thought should have gone into looking internally — are student doctors being used effectively, for instance?

Is there a place for retired doctors to play a role in educating not only these younger doctors, but also those in the communities around them, particularly in our townships where life has resumed with little to no observation of safety measures? 

But, ultimately, can any step to reduce the spread of the virus ever be premature?

Surely no nation is in a position to turn away help at this time?

The Cubans are here now. Best we put them to good use. 

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