By Neelam Rahim
While the controversy around comments made by Limpopo MEC for Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba to a Zimbabwean patient in a public hospital in that province rages on, Doctors without Borders or MSF in South Africa has raised concerns over xenophobic protests outside another public hospital. MSF says ongoing xenophobic protests outside Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital by Operation Dudula supporters have been going on for weeks.
Radio Islam International is discussing with MSF Southern Africa Regional Migration Advisor Vinayak Bhardwaj.
Understood by the press, the protest by operation Dudula started three weeks ago. Vinayak said from their observing in the past week, the Twshane team, in particular, went to the scene, and it was primarily due to patients who had gotten in touch with them.
According to Vinayak, they’ve observed patients being blocked from entering the facility based on accents and appearance, supposedly as a proxy for nationality.
“That’s what we have raised an alarm about in our press release and we really hope that law enforcement can take its role on this matter as patients should not be denied access to care on basis of nationality.”
Regarding the impact, this has on patients and medical personnel at the hospital, Vinayak told Radio Islam that patients who had made bookings could not fulfil those bookings. The health providers were also frustrated as people went through the wards trying to evict migrants from their hospital beds.
Meanwhile, the comments by the MEC have added fuel to the fire.” It’s not helpful to de-rate a patient like that, even if they were from legitimate fee-related payments. Health worker ethics and their code of conduct should allow for that behaviour.”
It’s also turned some health workers into immigration officers, which is not what they signed up for. He added they had signed up to uphold a code of conduct to provide the highest quality of care they can to patients who need it, and they should do so based on medical judgement, not on Department of Home Affairs Regulations.
According to Vinayak, the current fear is that migrants who may be affected by particular outbreaks or afraid they might be denied access to care will then deliberately avoid seeking care in facilities.
He says for the sake of public health. We need to ensure people with notifiable conditions can seek access to care.
Listen to the interview on Rado Islam’s podcast below.