Illegal abortions and dodgy doctors
Share this article:
Durban - Bogus doctors operate illegal and unsafe abortion clinics in the Durban city centre with impunity, as local authorities have turned a blind eye to the illicit trade.
The metro police, SAPS and the eThekwini Municipality have been accused of effectively allowing the “clinics” to flourish by failing to clamp down on them or to conduct raids to shut them down.
Adverts for illegal abortion clinics, and backstreet “medics” offering a whole host of dodgy services, are pasted across the city.
City sources who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity said a lack of will to crack down, as well as a lack of resources for the Inner City Thekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme (iTrump), had allowed bogus doctors in the “backstreet” operations to mushroom.
While raids had been carried out on the illegal clinics in the past, local authorities had allegedly “dropped the ball” and not acted against their re-emergence over three years, one source said.
“The (iTrump) team is responsible for looking at this, but they have lost over half their staff to other departments in recent months. They have just a few people doing the work and they are mostly tied up with the city’s bad buildings problem and just don’t have the time to go after illegal abortion clinics,” the source said.
“It has been over three years (since) we have had a raid (on) these abortion clinics. There is literally no one looking into it,” another source said.
Hoosen Moolla, head of the iTrump programme, admitted there were “resource challenges” but said he hoped to put together a team to investigate and shut down the clinics.
He could not say when the crackdown would take place, as they were “busy on other projects”.
“This is not just a problem in Durban; it is a countrywide problem. At the moment we don’t have a team in place actively looking for these guys and making arrests. It is an enforcement issue that needs many different departments to get involved,” he said.
In the meantime, illegal stickers advertising “pain-free abortions” and “same-day, pain-free women’s clinics” have been plastered on traffic lights, lamp poles, road signs and walls across the city. Other dubious services are also offered.
The municipality’s head of communications, Tozi Mthethwa, said the illegal posters and “clinics” were an ongoing problem.
“The municipality has previously conducted joint operations with metro police and the SAPS to arrest bogus doctors conducting illegal abortions in the city. Awareness campaigns are conducted to educate the public about the dangers of using bogus doctors,” she said.
“The municipality has not made any arrests for pasting posters. We also do not have any statistics of the number of posters pasted or those removed. It is very difficult to establish who the culprits are as they employ ‘runners’ who work for them.”
The Daily News contacted the numbers on the illegal stickers and was told that a person from the clinic would “pick you up” at a fast food outlet in Pixley Ka Seme (West) Street if a person wanted a procedure performed.
The “doctor” did not want to give his name, the address of his clinic or the price for his procedures, saying that all the information would be given at the “clinic”.
The rise in illegal and unsafe “clinics” has raised concerns from health-care professionals who said the procedures and medicines given by the bogus doctors could be harmful, and even lead to death.
Andrea Thompson, head of client services at Marie Stopes, a non-profit abortion clinic, said women who went to illegal abortion clinics risked serious damage to their uterus, and in the most serious of incidents, death.
“The World Health Organisation only recommends medical abortions from four to nine weeks in supervised facilities. These fly-by-night operations offer abortion to 20 weeks and even beyond that, which is totally against the law.”
The spokesman for the national Department of Health, Joe Maila, said health officials countrywide were battling the increase in illegal clinics. He said the problem of illegal clinics should not be left solely to authorities to shut down.
“We need activists and ordinary people to get involved and go and shut down these places. We need to save our people from the backstreet operations,” he said. “We try our best to work with law enforcement but no sooner do you shut down one, another one pops up.”
The SAPS refused to answer questions posed by the Daily News and referred queries to the metro police.
Metro police spokesman, Eugene Msomi, asked the Daily News to e-mail questions to him on Friday. He had still not responded by Monday morning.
Professor Mohamed Haffejee, a specialist urologist who teaches at the Wits Medical School, said it was not known what treatment was being described for penis enlargements or if it was legitimate.
“They are using medication or some sort of herbal remedy, the contents of which are unknown. That already raised the red flag because you don’t know what is in it; it may be toxic to the liver or to the kidneys, we just don’t know what is inside there,” he said.
“In terms of devices I am not sure what they are using but the accepted forms for penile enlargement is surgery or the stretching devices. The worrying factor is that these guys are untrained, and are doing their work based on no evidence.
“They are basically duping desperate consumers into taking a potentially dangerous therapy.”