A total of 651 students will be returning this year from Cuba for their final sixth year of study and to begin their integration process into the South African healthcare system.

Despite criticism of the costs involved, the NMFC Medical Collaboration Programme has been adding hundreds of medical graduates into the healthcare system each year since its inception in 1996.

The return of the students is a major boost not only for increasing the output of medical personnel and strengthening primary health care (PHC), but also for the success of National Health Insurance (NHI), the flagship programme to change the quality, efficiency and the effectiveness of the healthcare system. PHC is the cornerstone of NHI.

Their contribution to the successful implementation of the Cuban preventative healthcare (PHC) model, which supports universal health coverage, remains at the core of the National Health Insurance (NHI) in South Africa to address the current and emerging challenges in the health care system. NHI will ensure that the right to access health care is not determined by the socio-economic conditions of an individual.

The integration process starts with their registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). All the 5th year students returning from Cuba will be integrated into the South African health system through rotations in the expanded clinical training platforms attached to all medical schools in the country. They will be assessed together with their local peers throughout their final years of study.

All the South African Medical Schools are expected to participate in the integration of the South African Cuban trained medical students in the Health Education and Health Care Systems. Allocation of students is managed through mutual agreement between the Department of Health and medical universities.

It is based on equitable distribution of students taking the following into account:

  • Size and capacity of the Medical School,
  • Provincial considerations and finances, and
  • Students choice and domiciliary.

Each medical university offers psycho-social support to the students during their final sixth year study. There is a mentorship programme where the qualified medical doctors also provide support. The mentors include professionals like social workers, psychologists and senior medical staff. Such services exist at each university as tertiary education is always a transition.

This year, South Africa is expecting the largest number of 5th- year Cuban-trained medical students returning from Cuba to commence the integration programme into the South African health system.

Below is a breakdown of the allocation of returning students.

Table 1: Allocation of Students per University returning July 2019

Table 1- Allocation of Students per University returning July 2019