Meetings of the Portfolio Committee on Health do not always turn out the way I expect. At a report back on the study tour to Cuba, I expected to hear rather more about what South Africa could learn from that country’s primary health care system, and rather less about the disappointing behaviour of some of the students who accompanied the members of the Portfolio Committee on the visit.
I was saddened to hear of the drunken and rude behaviour of the students and totally concur with the members who felt that their behaviour gave a bad impression of South Africa.
After lengthy discussion about how much this behaviour should be emphasised in the report, it was decided to add the following sentence: “that the Committee observed that some of the South African students behaved in an unacceptable manner, a manner unbecoming of South African students in a foreign country”.
South Africa clearly has a lot to learn from the public healthcare system that Cuba has implemented. Their outcomes have seen them rated as among the best in the world, with dramatic drops in child mortality and an equally steep improvement in life expectancy. This is in spite of the challenges they face from an ageing population, an economy that is growing at a little over 1 percent per annum and a severe cutback from their main aid partner, Venezuela.