South Africa has given $3million to bring in 32 Cuban Doctors to Sierra Leone John Donnely reports on Global Post that South Africa is among several other nations that are currently helping to support Sierra Leone’s efforts to boost its health sector. While we should be grateful, it is time we start creating sustainable opportunities for more Sierra Leoneans to recieve medical training in countries like Cuba. That way we have more doctors of our own. We can not continue to rely on handouts. Sierra Leone needs to educate more medical professionals and more importantly find a way to keep them at home. The more I think about it, I am convinced that this $3m could have been just as well spent to bring 32 Sierra Leonean doctors practicing overseas back to Sierra Leone.
The Minister of Health, Mrs Zainab Bangura said, “This is truly South-South cooperation,” Bangura said in an interview in a Washington-area hotel just before her trip to Cuba. “Developing countries are helping us out.” I wonder if it was a South African government condition that the doctors be Cuban or if as usual the government of Sierra Leone prefers to bring in foreigners than to spend the time, and effort to identify Sierra Leonean doctors to bring home to work. On the one hand the President comes to the US and proclaims that he wants people from the diaspora to head home. And here you have a clear opportunity to bring Sierra Leonean medical professionals home and instead we look to Cuba.
Global Post also added that Nigeria had sent 50 doctors, nurses, and midwives with Sudan also considering to do the same. I agree with the Minister when she says that “We have a huge problem with our shortage of skilled health workers,” but I think retention of medical professionals is the underlying cause of the shortage (Read Full Global post article here) A Sierra Leonean physician will earn 20 times more in South Africa than in Sierra Leone and so many choose to seek better opportunities elsewhere.