Economic cost and benefit of educating South African medical students in Cuba.
Mqadi, Nonhlanhla Precious.
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A number of developing countries are faced with the challenge of shortages in specialised skills, more predominantly in the health care sector. South Africa is not unique in that the supply of medical practitioners is well below the demand required to service the population of the country, resulting in high doctor to patient ratios. With the supply of medical practitioners well below the demanded number to service the country’s growing population, the need for drastic intervention to address the needs of the South African health community was realised. Increasing the number of students to be trained in the profession was seen as a viable option of eliminating the problem in future. To achieve this objective the government committed to an exchange programme to allow for South African students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be trained in Cuba. This qualitative study assessed the sustainability and cost efficiency of educating students in Cuba in an attempt to evaluate whether the option of sending students to Cuba was a sustainable and cost efficient alternative over investing on increasing the infrastructure of local training institutions. Semi-structured Interviews were conducted to collect primary data from eight students returning from Cuba to complete their degrees at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The findings of the study reflect that there are a number of advantages associated with training students in Cuba that could benefit the proposed National Health Care model the government aims to introduce to ensure health equality for all South African citizens. The study also highlighted that the significant differences between the countries in terms of their health care systems which require different approaches to patient management and the shortcomings of the collaboration programme which pose challenges for the students recruited for this programme. The cost benefit analysis conducted reflect that it would be more cost effective to increase the capacity of local institutions, allowing for the same number of students that are recruited to study in Cuba to do so locally.
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