SA Drs ‘discriminate’ against refugees
By Hassan Isilow
Government hospitals and clinics should stop discriminating against legal refugees seeking health care, a senior researcher in health migration at the African Centre for Migration and Society has said. Dr Joanna Vearey condemned medical practitioners who discriminate against refugees and asylum seekers who go for treatment at government health facilities.
Joanna’s comment comes a week after a doctor at Johannesburg’s Helen Joseph Hospital told a Somali man suffering from renal failure to seek treatment elsewhere as his nationality reportedly ‘disqualified’ him from receiving long-term dialysis at a government hospital.
The Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCOB) expressed shock to read a medical report signed by a doctor at Helen Joseph Hospital who advised the 38-year-old Osman Hirsi to seek treatment elsewhere.
“Asylum seekers holding Section 22 permits and refugees with Section 21 permits living in the country are required to access the rights to which they are entitled to such as access to basic health care, employment and education among others,” Vearey stated.
She advised refugees who feel they have been discriminated against by a medical staff member to forward complaints to the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
Earlier this year several refugee women told a community dialogue facilitated by the Southern Africa Media and Gender Institute that they had been mistreated by nurses at government hospitals both during antenatal visits and while in hospital to give birth. One woman explained that she had been called insulting names and was lightly assaulted by a nurse.
This is not the first time refugees and asylum seekers have been discriminated against while seeking local health care. In 2008, a study conducted by the Forced Migration Studies programme of Wits University found that in spite of migrants having a legal right to access anti retroviral treatment (ART), they were being turned away from government clinics.
The study further found that despite South Africa having a protective, urban refugee policy, which affords particular rights through protective legislation to refugees and asylum seekers, in practice things were very different. The study discovered that many refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants struggled to access basic rights that they were entitled to such as access to basic health, and employment among others
Earlier this year The Star newspaper reported the plight of a Burundian woman who had died after being denied dialysis treatment. 37-year-old Andrea Hakizimana was denied the life saving care by the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg and the Steve Biko Academic Hospital since 2007. She had also unsuccessfully challenged the government in court.