The Solomon Islands Government has warmly welcomed the arrival of seven additional doctors from Cuba in light of the critical shortage of specialist doctors in the country.

The seven doctors were welcomed on arrival at the Honiara International Airport on Sunday by Minister of Health, Hon. Johnson Koli and top government officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health and Medical Services.

The seven doctors now join up with two others who arrived in the country last year following a cooperation agreement signed between the two governments on 6 March 2007.

Minister Koli described Cuba's commitment to send doctors to Solomon Islands "as a sign of true friendship and brotherhood"

Under the agreement, Cuba has committed to send a total of 40 specialist doctors to serve in Solomon Islands and at the same time offered medical scholarships for Solomon Islands students to study in Cuba.

So far 50 medical students from Solomon Islands are studying in Cuba.

Solomon Islands and the Republic of Cuba have established diplomatic relations on 19 December 2002.

The 2007 cooperation agreement is the first significant collaboration to be pursued by the two countries after 7 years.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Cuba among the top ten countries with the best health care systems.

Cuba also has a medical brigade of 21,000 doctors serving in poor third world countries worldwide.

Mr Koli said Solomon Islands is prepared to learn from Cuba in efforts to improve the country's health care system.

"This learning process is significant to produce a healthy population in order to become more productive in our development aspirations," Mr Koli said.

The current team and others who are expected to follow will work in the country for the next five years.

Other members of the present 9 doctors will be deployed to other major health centers in the provinces after a month long familiarization service at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.

Copyright @ 2009. Government Communications Unit. All Rights Reserved.