Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku welcomed 28 Cuban Medical Brigade doctors to the province on Saturday, saying he hopes South Africa can learn from the experiences of the Cuban experts.
More than 200 arrived in South Africa last month, consisting of family physicians, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, healthcare technology engineers, biotechnology experts and other specialists.
"We have changed gear and that is where we are going to use the experience of the Cuban [Medical] Brigade because we are going into our communities doing a door-to-door and a ward-based approach in terms of the strategy," Masuku said, adding this approach would focus on hot spots.
"This is what we think will be the backbone of our National Health Insurance because what we are hoping to achieve and build beyond this is a primary healthcare system that will be able to create a sustainable healthcare system going forward.
"So, we are welcoming you with excitement because we are ready to learn from you."
He said the pandemic had created a good opportunity to fast-track reforms in the health sector, with a priority to improving patient care.
"The department's priorities are about improving the patient experience of care in our facilities in making sure that our staff are highly motivated, taken care of. We are making sure they have their basic tools of trade.
"Happy doctors and nurses will produce a happy patient."
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Masuku added the partnership would be a way to build this type of healthcare system.
"It is in this regard that we urge you to see your contribution during this period as a way of partnering with us in building a strong public health system that is capacitated to usher in universal health coverage in South Africa.
"You are all a part of the building of an important legacy for the transformation of health in South Africa," he told members of the brigade.
The Cuban health system was centred on primary healthcare which, Masuku said, would aid the transformation of South Africa's health system too.
"This exchange is therefore an important opportunity for us to share knowledge and experiences, but also moments of joy, laughter and friendship."
He added their assistance in the fight against Covid-19 in South Africa was one of several ways the two countries have partnered, saying it was not the first time Cuba had sent a medical brigade to assist southern Africa.
READ | South Africa spent at least R400m on Cuban Medical Brigade deployment
"Another important part of this legacy is establishment of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Training Programme, which has seen thousands of young South Africans receiving medical training in Cuba, equipping them to make positive contributions to the health system in South Africa.
"We are pleased to join hands with you as we overcome the war that has been waged by this pandemic," Masuku said.