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A Constitutional Court judgment on the management of tuberculosis (TB) in prisons could set a positive precedent, nursing union Denosa said on Wednesday.
“(We) hope this will set a precedent in managing other diseases going forward,” the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA said.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that prison authorities had a duty to minimise disease transmission.
The court ruled that Dudley Lee be granted leave to appeal a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which had overturned a finding by the Western Cape High Court in his favour.
Lee claimed that poor prison health management resulted in his tuberculosis (TB) infection while he was remanded in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town, between 1994 and 2004.
“The matter is of importance, not only to the parties, but also to other inmates and the health sector generally. It is thus in the interests of justice that leave to appeal should be granted,” said Judge Bess Nkabinde in her majority judgment.
Nkabinde found TB control at Pollsmoor depended on effective screening of inmates, isolation of infectious prisoners, and proper medical care. This had not been implemented.
The SCA had found that while the State was negligent, Lee could not prove this negligence had caused his infection - a test Nkabinde said was too rigid.
Denosa spokesman Sibongiseni Delihlazo said quality healthcare in developing countries was becoming a privilege and not a right.
“Most inhabitants in the developing countries are vulnerable due to the shallow size of their pocket, and matters may be exacerbated if a government department is not playing its role to the best of its ability,” he said.
“We hope that all government departments will continuously play their role of promoting health throughout by improving their facilities, and ensure that they are not susceptible to various non-communicable diseases, and the number of new infections is kept to a possible minimum.” - Sapa