Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane
Pretoria - Health Minister Joe Phaahla is expected to receive a full report on the controversial developments involving Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba who was recently filmed addressing a Zimbabwean patient on the impact of foreign nationals taking up bed space in public hospitals.
Ramathuba’s address took place at Bela Bela Hospital while she was on a departmental inspection of public health facilities this month.
The video trended on Twitter on Wednesday, sparking a debate on South Africa’s approach to illegal immigration, a conversation politicians have been reluctant to discuss.
Opposition parties such as the EFF and the DA have called for Ramathuba to be removed as MEC while the likes of the Patriotic Alliance, the ANC Youth League in Limpopo and some social media users defended her.
On Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a news broadcaster that he understood where Ramathuba was coming from.
“When you mention facts as facts people throw xenophobia at you. We talk figures and nothing else. For instance, 70% of women who deliver at Musina in Limpopo are foreign nationals.
“There was a story that made headlines about a pregnant woman from Burundi who was turned away at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and other places until she delivered at Park Station in Joburg. It was May that year and I was called to the media briefing and we were accused of xenophobia. We proved that there was no xenophobia.
“In May that year we delivered 700 babies at Charlotte Maxeke, and 400 of those pregnant women were not South African,” Motsoaledi said.
The ANCYL in Limpopo has called illegal immigration “an elephant in the room” that needs to be addressed and ventilated.
League provincial spokesperson Daniel Madibana said: “The MEC had to address the elephant in the room by addressing some of the rife issues currently affecting our public health facilities which negatively affect the primary beneficiaries of the system, being the people of Limpopo.
“What is common cause is that the MEC made all of us swallow a bitter pill because South African patients are turned back at hospitals or stand in long queues at clinics while undocumented foreigners occupy hospital beds.”
Yesterday the national Health Department released a media statement acknowledging the challenges that Ramathuba had raised during her Bela Bela visit.
National department spokesperson Foster Mogale said: “Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla is currently out of the country, and the acting Minister of Health, Angie Motshekga, has instructed the department to gather all necessary information which will enable her to provide Dr Phaahla with a full report on his return.”
When contacted for comment, Ramathuba said: “Our people are suffering due to lack of beds but nobody is willing to hear that. We have Limpopo patients who go home without getting needed surgery because somebody else took their space.
“This issue has to be addressed.”