The DA in Gauteng has criticised the provincial Department of Health for spending R32.5 million out of its HIV/Aids grant to pay 28 Cuban doctors who were roped in to assist in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The doctors were contracted for a year, from May 15 last year until May 30 this year.

DA MPL Jack Bloom lamented the fact that the millions were used on the Cubans despite there being no need identified for their service.

Bloom said “I doubt whether these doctors did anything that local doctors could not have done more cost-effectively.

“It’s yet another example of the ANC’s Cuba obsession that diverts money that should be used to save lives of patients in our crumbling ­hospitals”.

Department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the R32m budget was inclusive of remuneration, accommodation and transport, adding that their contracts have since come to an end.

Kekana said “Members of the Cuban medical brigade were part of a diverse category of workers whose area of work included advisory, health data specialists, public health specialists, consulting with patients and total health-care delivery.”

She said the Cuban deployment in the province was part of the government-to-government agreement entered into by the South African and Cuban governments.

“Cuba is known for having the best health outcomes and their experiences in prevention and health promotion areas, their efforts were therefore to assist in the fight against Covid-19, sharing best practices and experiences from their own country.”

Kekana also expressed gratitude to all health-care workers for their heroic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The health-care system has been tested in many ways during this period, but it has shown its resilience due to the dedication of the many men and women who have dedicated themselves to saving lives”.

According to Bloom, the doctors’ one-year salaries ranged from R858 000 for a biostatistician to R1.58 million for a specialised medical doctor, according to Bloom.

He said “The budget for them was taken from Covid components of the HIV/Aids grant, which is surely irregular. It appears that Gauteng was forced to fit in with the nationally imposed decision to use Cuban doctors even though no local need was identified.”