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No proof foreigners turned away at SA hospitals: Motsoaledi

Politics
Parliament – There was no evidence that foreign nationals were being turned away at South African hospitals, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

In fact, said the minister, many hospitals reported that more than 50% of babies delivered at their institutions were born to foreigners.

Briefing Parliament's portfolio committee on health, Motsoaledi said he was perturbed by inaccurate reports that a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo gave birth at Park Town Station in Johannesburg because she had been turned away from a number of hospitals in Gauteng.

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Motsoaledi said from investigations, they had established that a heavily pregnant Francine Kalala did not arrive at the Tshwane District Hospital at 2am and wait for hours to get help.

CCTV footage showed she arrived at 5.13am and left at 5.55am.

Reports that the woman then drove to the Steve Biko Hospital were further proven untrue as footage showed she never entered the hospital's gates.

She was transported to the Charlotte Maxeke hospital after she gave birth. Motsoaledi said claims that she was again refused admission were wrong.

Instead, he said, she was admitted and examined by a midwife, while her baby was "put in warmer".

The woman was observed for six hours as is the norm and was then directed to the Hillbrow hospital for further care.

A clearly perturbed Motsoaledi told MPs the woman's claims and the inaccurate article written by an intern from the United States were meant to inflict "maximum reputational damage" to South Africa's healthcare system.

"The overwhelming understanding of the public was that healthcare system in South Africa is so evil and xenophobic that a woman and her newborn baby are made to suffer in an extremely callous manner," the minister said.

Motsoaledi said the South African Constitution ensured no one was turned away during medical emergencies, including those giving birth, irrespective of them being illegal migrants or asylum seekers.

The minister said the only proof they were able to find was that Kalala "met an exceptionally rude nurse" at the Tshwane District Hospital, which he said "may happen even to South Africans".

The conduct of the nurse was being looked into, the minister added. "One nurse being rude to one patient, cannot be an overall conclusion that anyone who is an asylum seeker is being turned away."

Motsoaledi then went on to list maternity statistics of various hospitals, which indicated that many women who gave birth at South African hospitals were not citizens of the Republic.

According to the minister, the 2017 monthly maternity statistics at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg alone showed: – January – 724 deliveries (306 foreigners); – February – 658 deliveries (295 foreigners); – March – 714 deliveries (342 foreigners); – April – 738 deliveries (317 foreigners); and – May – 764 deliveries (431 foreigners)

"That's an average of 47 percent and they [hospital staff] are used to doing this, why should they then have acted differently when this one [woman] came?" asked Motsoaledi.

"We might be accused of many wrong things in the healthcare system, but not this issue of refusing to treat people from other countries."

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