Pretoria – Despite the alarm bells raised last week by an international humanitarian medical group, members of the lobby organisation Operation Dudula have continued to vet patients arriving at the Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria.
The Sowetan reported on Tuesday that Dudula continued to confront people walking into the hospital, stopping patients who were dark-skinned.
According to the publication, members of the group mainly stopped women based on their “appearance and skin tone”, and also demanded to see proof of identification. The patients were also asked questions to ascertain their origin.
White people and light-skinned black people were reportedly permitted to freely enter the hospital, while dark-skinned people faced a barrage of questions to prove if they are South African.
Last week, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) said several foreign nationals have been turned away from public hospitals in Tshwane by activists in what the non-governmental organisation called an intensifying xenophobic climate and politicisation of health care.
MSF said ongoing “xenophobic protests” outside the Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital were preventing patients, including migrants, from accessing the facility.
“These actions must be rejected and should trigger urgent action by health authorities and leaders to protect access to healthcare for all,” MSF in South Africa said.
“Operation Dudula supporters have been protesting outside the hospital for three weeks, chanting threatening statements through loud-hailers and preventing many from entering the facility.”
Sibusiso Ndlovu, health promotion supervisor at MSF in Tshwane, said the protesters were demanding that foreign nationals be removed from public hospitals.
MSF said hostility to serving migrants in South Africa’s health facilities was intensifying, “fuelled by inflammatory and political statements from government officials, including Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba”, who was recently recorded berating a Zimbabwean patient in a health-care facility, insisting that foreigners were overburdening the health-care system.
The international NGO said if migrants were fearful for their safety when entering or leaving health facilities, and if health workers were placed under pressure “to behave as immigration officers, the consequences will be felt across the population”.
Dr Tasanya Chinsamy, medical activity manager at MSF in Tshwane, said if non-citizens stayed away from hospitals, infectious diseases could fester unnoticed in South Africa.