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Healthcare facilities ignore the rights of pregnant and lactating migrants

By Sameera Casmod
5 July 2023 | 19:00 CAT
2 min read

Photo Credit: Section27

Despite a court order, expectant immigrants are being turned away from a few healthcare facilities in Gauteng.

In April 2023, a ruling was passed by the Gauteng High Court, which affirms the rights of all pregnant and lactating women and children under six to access free healthcare services. This ruling, regardless of nationality and documentation status, resulted from an application brought forward by Section27, alongside women who have been unjustly denied access to such essential services. 

According to a News24 report, the court declared certain regulations and a policy that denies free health services to pregnant and lactating women and young children who are undocumented, asylum seekers, undocumented, or persons affected by statelessness as unlawful. However, many immigrants are being denied access to prenatal care. 

During an interview with Sibusisiwe Ndlela, attorney for Section27, the discussion brought to attention the issue of healthcare workers turning away pregnant migrant women and their children. Ndlela emphasised that healthcare workers have ethical and legal obligations towards their patients and highlighted the need to provide healthcare services regardless of their background or circumstances. 

Specific instances were mentioned, revealing the unfortunate reality faced by pregnant migrants seeking care. Hospitals such as Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Tambo Memorial Hospital, South Hills, Germiston City Municipal Clinic, Heidelberg Clinic, and Edenvale Clinic were identified as facilities known to have turned away pregnant migrants. The situation is further exacerbated by allegations of bribery, extortion, and the imposition of charges for services that should be free under existing legal frameworks.

The challenges faced by these vulnerable women were discussed, emphasising their struggle to survive, provide for their children, and secure economic opportunities in a country where opportunities are already scarce. Providing accessible and affordable healthcare services is crucial to safeguarding their well-being and upholding their rights.

Efforts are underway to address these concerning practices. The court order issued in April shows a scheduled return date in October. During this time, the Health Department will be responsible for rectifying policies denying access and developing informative posters for public healthcare facilities. This represents a step towards compliance with the court’s orders and a commitment to providing adequate healthcare services to pregnant women and young children.

The recent court ruling serves as a beacon of hope, highlighting the importance of protecting the rights of vulnerable populations and ensuring their access to vital healthcare services. By addressing the challenges faced by pregnant migrants and their children, society takes a significant stride towards fostering inclusivity and equality in healthcare provision.

As the implementation of the court’s orders progresses, it is hoped that pregnant women and young children, irrespective of their nationality and documentation status, will receive the necessary care and support they require for a healthy and dignified future.

Listen to the full interview on Sabahul Muslim with Yusuf Moosagie here.

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