KwaZulu-Natal's acting head of health Dr Musa Gumede. Picture: KZN Health

Durban – The health department in KwaZulu-Natal has put a stop to the hiring of foreign health professionals, particularly doctors, to accommodate Cuban-trained South African doctors.

An internal circular dated 4 September 2019 signed by the department’s acting head of health, Dr Musa Gumede, states: “The Department has taken a decision to suspend the recruitment and employment of foreign health professionals in particular foreign doctors.”

The African News Agency (ANA) has seen the circular and verified its authenticity. It is addressed to district managers, hospital managers, community health centre managers, institution heads and head office managers.

In the circular, Gumede says the decision to suspend the foreign professionals was taken because the department “has recruited a huge number of South African citizens to be trained as doctors in Cuba”.

Some of the medical students were returning to medical schools around the country to complete their training, continued Gumede, and the department “will not have sufficient posts and funds to absorb these doctors should the recruitment and employment of foreign doctors not [be] reviewed and suspended”.

The department also had a “huge” responsibility to ensure the Cuban-trained doctors were absorbed into the healthcare system in the near future, said Gumede.

“Planning ahead is therefore crucial for this project to be successful, bearing in mind the financial constraints in the filling of critical posts.”

The suspension would continue until further notice, concluded Gumede.

In a statement issued last year as part of celebrations to welcome 260 Cuban-trained student doctors to KZN, the department said there were 2 885 medical students in Cuba who were at various levels of study.

“No fewer than 590 doctors have already qualified from the training programme, while 98 students are doing their final year at South African medical schools,” said the release.

KwaZulu-Natal’s then health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, called the agreement to train South African students in Cuba “revolutionary” and a catalyst for the continued "upskilling" of medical students.

“For the first time, the student doctors would be placed in various hospitals throughout the province, as opposed to the erstwhile approach where their training was mainly concentrated in the metropolitan areas of eThekwini and UMsunduzi municipalities,” said Dhlomo.

African News Agency/ANA