Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Deputy President David Mabuza welcomed about 260 fifth-year medical students home on their return from training in Cuba as part of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro (NMFC) medical collaboration programme.

The medical students returned from Cuba for their final sixth-year studies and reintegration into the South African health system.

Diplomatic relations between South Africa and Cuba since 1994 resulted in the establishment of the medical collaboration programme in 1996, to promote primary healthcare.

With the national Health Department wanting to introduce National Health Insurance, Motsoaledi said the students would be “the first soldiers” to help make it a reality.

Addressing the students and their families yesterday, he said: “We want to make a new law in South Africa, National Health Insurance. Let me tell you where it links with you.

“In the National Health Insurance, we said its heartbeat is going to be primary healthcare. Do you know what the heart is? If we remove a heart from a body, that body dies. And if you remove primary healthcare, the NHI won’t survive. You are the first soldiers who are going to make NHI come alive.”

The training of the students is one of the national strategies developed by the Ministry of Health to strengthen the public health sector.

The students will be reintegrated to complete their final sixth year at various participating universities.

The graduation ceremony for 2018 will be held at Stellenbosch University on July17. It will be attended by ministers of health from South Africa and Cuba, their deputies and other dignitaries.