Pretoria – The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) has condemned the behaviour of Limpopo MEC for Health, Dr Phophi Ramathuba who “attacked a patient” while on a tour of a hospital in Bela Bela.
In a widely circulated video, Ramathuba who was accompanied by a team of officials, addresses a Zimbabwean patient lying in a hospital bed, and the MEC tells the patient that she must not be in the hospital.
“The supreme law of our country and the Constitution of the country affords citizens and non-citizens to the right to be treated without any form of discrimination. We think the MEC was grandstanding and the public display that she did to that patient was completely unwarranted,” said YNITU general secretary Lerato Mthunzi.
“This was not the place or the time or the right audience to address these issues. The patient is in a sick bed and if she is admitted she is really sick and in dire of need of assistance from caring health-care workers.”
Mthunzi said Ramathuba has a responsibility to exercise empathy as a doctor and an MEC who is leading health care in the province.
“We believe that Dr Phophi is sending the wrong message to staff in public hospitals. No one should be allowed to terrorise a patient in a hospital. She is out of line. She is not exemplary and this is not the first time she has done something like this. She has attacked health-care workers unfairly in public,” Mthunzi said.
“We think this is a flagrant abuse of power. She has no defence because she is a member of the governing party. She should raise these issues at a policy level because the ANC government has the power to change policy decisions on the treatment of foreign nationals in public hospitals.”
The YNITU union said Ramathuba’s behaviour “seems like she is bullying the patient and the patient is not responsible for designing and implementing government policy”.
“This is why YNITU is demanding her immediate removal because she is not a good example of the kind of leadership we need in our public hospitals,” Mthunzi said.
There has been mixed reactions to the MEC’s outburst during the interaction with an undocumented Zimbabwean national.
After the patient tells the MEC that she speaks Shona, a dominant language in Zimbabwe, the Limpopo government official questions the patient.
“You speak Shona? And how do you end up being in Bela Bela when you are supposed to be with Mnangagwa? You know he doesn’t give me money to operate you guys? And I am operating you with my limited budget,” the MEC said.
The frail-sounding patient says she appreciates the service, and Ramathuba said: “You can’t appreciate that. You are killing my health system. When you guys are sick these days, I hear you just say, let us cross the Limpopo River, there is an MEC there who is running a charity department. It’s not,” the MEC said addressing the bed-ridden patient, with a crew of health officials laughing loudly.
In the three-minute rant, the MEC also tells the patient that she has been operating patients “for what Mnangagwa is supposed to do”.
Ramathuba’s remarks, which have been widely reported in the news in different African countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe, have garnered opposing opinions on social media platforms.
Media personality Redi Tlhabi said: “Cowardly. Bullying, or if she is so incensed, she could ask President Ramaphosa to relay her message to Mnangagwa.”