THE Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi and the Cuban Ambassador to Lesotho, Rodolfo Benitez Verson, recently signed two new bilateral cooperation agreements in the field of health.
The agreements were signed at the Ministry of Health offices in Maseru on Wednesday. The agreements are for three years but have an option of extension by a similar period.
The agreements entail that the Cuban Medical Brigade which is currently in Lesotho, will be expanded by 33 new Cuban health professionals. They will join the four doctors who are already providing their services in Lesotho.
The Director General (DG)-Health Services in the Ministry of Health, ‘Nyane Letsie, highlighted at the ceremony that Mr Kabi went to Cuban last year in April to request for additional health human resources due to the shortage of doctors, biomedical engineers and dentists.
She said it was during the visit that he was awarded an additional 33 health care professionals which include doctors in family medicine, dentists and other specialists.
She said the doctors are expected in Lesotho by the end of this month and will be sent to all districts of the country.
For his part, Mr Kabi said during his visit to Cuba, one of the discussions centred on the need for doctors and said he was glad that they were finally signing an agreement.
“Lesotho is desperate for doctors and that was the reason for which we decided to approach Cuba,” Mr Kabi said.
He said the Cuban doctors were committed and professional and he hopes that they would impart such characteristics among Basotho.
For his part, Mr Verson said that the signing of the new agreements was taking place in the context of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Lesotho which are celebrated on the 14th of June annually.
He said since both countries formalised their ties in 1979, their relations have been expanding and strengthening continuously based on friendship, cooperation and solidarity.
“Cuba and Lesotho initiated the health cooperation programme in 2002 and in addition to the growing presence of Cuban doctors in the sister African nation, it has its expression in the training of dozens of young Basotho as doctors in Cuba,” Mr Verson said.
He said Basotho professionals have also been trained in their country in other areas, such as physical culture and sports, agronomy, veterinary medicine, mining, economics, accounting, hydraulic engineering, telecommunications, civil construction and computing among other specialties.
“Both countries maintain systematic high-level political exchanges and among the most recent are the official visit to Cuba by Honourable Lesego Makgothi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, in October 2018, and the one made to Lesotho by the Cuban Vice President lnés Maria Chapman, last March,“ Mr Verson said.
He said Cuba and Lesotho will continue working together on the expansion of bilateral projects, to cover other areas of mutual interest.
Lesotho has a serious lack of medical practitioners and spends millions annually to send patients to South Africa and recently, India for specialist treatment.
A team of doctors from Apollo Hospital, in India visited the country in April last year to assist the government in its fight against non-communicable diseases like cancer and kidney ailments.
Apollo Hospital is India’s leading specialist hospital with more than 5000 doctors that offer the best modern healthcare.
The team focused on the improvement of cancer and renal services whose unavailability has compromised the health of Basotho.
At the time of the visit, Dr Letsie, told the Lesotho Times that the doctors will now periodically help Lesotho with cancer and renal services which are not available at the national referral hospital, the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH).
“The doctors visited our government hospitals where they looked into our structures and identified patients that will need to be flown to India for cancer and renal treatment,” Dr Letsie said last year.
The Ministry of Health has also in recent months engaged South Africa-based Basotho specialist doctors on a part time basis as part of efforts of reducing the referral of patients to the neighbouring country and to improve the overall health delivery system in the country.
Talks on the proposed engagement of the South Africa-based doctors commenced between the two parties during their joint tour of Mafeteng Hospital last July.
Last October Mr Kabi pleaded with the Chinese government to double the number of doctors they send to Lesotho each year.
Mr Kabi made the plea during the farewell of the 12th Chinese Medical Team which was deployed in Lesotho from October 2017 for a year. The reception which was held at the Chinese Embassy in Maseru on Monday also served as the welcome ceremony for the 13th medical team which will also spend a year of service in Lesotho.
Each year, China sends eight medical specialists to assist local doctors. The Chinese doctors are deployed at Motebang Hospital in Leribe from where they visit remote areas in the northern parts of the country such as Mokhotlong. They also donate groceries to the needy during their visits.
Since 1996, more than 150 Chinese doctors have been deployed to Lesotho to help in different hospitals.