Pretoria — KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize says that a group of medical students, who left the province on Monday for medical training in Cuba, will soon return and be able to assist with the rollout of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
Mkhize was speaking at King Shaka International Airport during a farewell function organised by the MEC for Health, Dr Sbongiseni Dhlomo, for 115 students who have been selected to study medicine in Cuba as part of the South Africa - Cuba Medical Training Programme. The programme was started 16 years ago.
Mkhize said the provincial government regarded the students as assets that would transform public health in the province and the whole country.
"Upon completion of their studies, they will be at the forefront of the implementation of NHI in various health institutions. For the public to use the publicly-funded NHI services in the public and private sector, the quality of health services must improve and these students will assist in this regard," Mkhize said.
He added that the disparity in resource distribution between the public and private health sector and consequent inequities in access to care continued unabated and as government, they had a responsibility to ensure that barriers to access to quality health care for all were removed.
Mkhize highlighted that many people received military training in Cuba as the country fought against the apartheid government but now the country's main focus was the fight against the burden of disease.
"These students have been selected from all districts in the province with the assistance of mayors and district Aids Councils. They are fully aware that they all represent the aspirations of poor people who cannot afford medical aid in order to access quality healthcare."
About 143 students in the province have left for Cuba already and more than 60 are expected to leave over the next two days.
Mkhize said the main target as the KwaZulu-Natal government was to train more medical students in order to increase the current output of doctors produced each year by the country.
KwaZulu-Natal has been ardently implementing key interventions and activities as part of the preparatory work for the implementation of NHI.
Taking advantage of the NHI pilot, districts that were announced, Umzinyathi and Umgungundlovu, the provincial government decided to add a further district to focus on matters pertaining to institutional and organisational arrangements over and above the provisions of the NHI grant framework.
As part of the pilot process, the province has also been testing components that focus on improving financial management capacity and systems at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital and King Edward VIII Academic Hospital.