FNB Acacia

Language spoils Cuban doctors, patients relations

SHARE   |   Thursday, 13 February 2020   |   By Joseph Kgamanyane
Saleshando Saleshando

Language barrier between the Cuban health specialists and local patients in hospitals is reportedly said to be frustrating the intended good cause of the long standing bilateral relations between Cuba and Botswana in the health sector.

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As part of the two countries’ health cooperation, Botswana has over the years been receiving various health specialists from Cuba to provide their medical services in different parts of the country. The medical volunteers provide speciality in various medical fields comprising of epidemiology, orthopedics, surgery, immunology, pediatrics, physiotherapy and gynecology. The contingent is deployed to major villages across the country such as Gaborone, Molepolole, Lobatse, Mahalapye, Serowe, Mochudi, Francistown, Maun and Selebi-Pikwe. 

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Even though he appreciates this assistance from Cuba to Botswana, the Maun West Member of Parliament, Dumelang Saleshando has however complained that the arrangement comes with difficulties such as communication challenge. Saleshando shared his frustrations recently at a press conference in Maun. According to him, there is a serious language misunderstanding between local patients and the Cuban health specialists during consultations.

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Saleshando revealed that he also once experienced the same problem when he had gone to Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital in Maun to consult with a medical doctor. The Umbrella for Democratic Change Vice President said it does not help for patients to be knowing English because the Cuban specialists themselves are again not fluent in the British Language. The majority of Cubans only speak Spanish which is their official language but there is a few of them who are able to speak English partially.

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“I have experienced this challenge myself while I had gone to the hospital to see a doctor, it was a problem trying to explain myself to him, speaking English also did not help,” Saleshando lamented.

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Saleshando who recently visited Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital and engaged with its management said it is even more worrisome that the hospital depend mostly on these Cuban Health Specialists. The Leader of Opposition says if government is going to continue depending on these specialists for the next coming years the Ministry of Health and Wellness should then consider employing Spanish speaking local translators to help mitigate the challenge.

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“We have people here in Botswana who have studied in those Spanish speaking countries- government can further train them so that they can be used to translate for both patients and the Cuban specialists,” Saleshando advised.

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When reached for a comment the Public Relations Officer at Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital, Batisani Mokgethi said despite having not received any complaint of language barrier from both the patients and the Cuban Specialists they will however follow-up the report to confirm if indeed the challenge does exist. But Mokgethi has argued that their normal procedure is that the Cuban Specialists are usually accompanied by a nurse during consultations who then helps relay the message between the Specialists and patients.

Even though he acknowledges that the Cuban Specialists are indeed not speaking English fluently but he defended that the latter however understand and are able to speak the basics of the language. Mokgethi further indicated that they also make sure that the nurses who have been accompanying the Cuban Specialists during consultations are maintained so that they are be able to gain more working experiencing with them. This he says, makes it easier for the nurses to even relate the message between specialists and patient much better.

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According to Mokgethi, in Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital the Cuban specialties comprises of an Oncologist, Dermatologist, two Physicians, ENT specialist, Psychiatrist, two Pediatricians, ophthalmologist and a Gynecologist. During her recent visits to Maun, the Cuban Ambassador to Botswana, Patricia Lazara Pego Guerra stressed that Cuban Health Specialists will continue being deployed to Botswana as long as necessary.   



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