The Ministry of Health and Medical Services, has appealed to the Government to give every support it can, to ensure that the doctor exchange and training scheme, between Solomon Islands and Cuba receives priority support to continue and on a timely basis.

The Under Secretary Health Care, Derik Alependava, in an interview said that given the country's current critical shortage of doctors, especially specialists and the length of time it takes to train doctors, the Cuban arrangement is the only scheme that gives the option for us to train fifty students immediately.

The scheme was signed by the former Sogavare Government with the Cuban Government under which Cuba would provide Solomon Islands with volunteer doctors while Cuba would provide medical training for up to fifty Solomon Islanders.

Alependava said that under the scheme, twenty-five Solomon Islanders are now in Cuba undergoing medical training and arrangements have already been undertaken to organize a further twenty-five to go to Cuba, but this will depend very much on the Government making available funds to pay for their airfares.

As part of the assistance package, Cuba has agreed to provide up to forty doctors to work in the Solomon Islands as volunteers and this arrangement would gradually phase out once our own doctors training in Cuba return from training.

Under this understanding, Cuba has already committed to send an initial eight doctors and two of them are already at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) working as specialist volunteers and two more are expected to arrive around October of this year.

Of the two Cuban Specialist volunteers now working in the NRH, one is an Aneasthetist and the other is an internal medicine physician.

Under the scheme, while the Ministry provides them with accommodation, food, and pay for their utilities' costs, they are only paid a monthly allowance of $100 US or about $800 SBD per month.

Under the training component scheme, the students are selected by both the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the National Training Unit of the Ministry of Education from Form 7 students with the necessary academic credentials.

Alependava said that once the selection is done, the final recommendation to take up the Cuban scholarships will come from the Ministry based on observations made of their performance and general attitude towards the nature of the work.