Stop turning foreigners away, SA Court orders hospitals

Limpopo MEC Phophi Ramathuba


The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday upheld the rights of all pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under six, to be provided with free health services at public hospitals. It said these rights are included for foreign and undocumented patients.

Analysts say the ruling is a humanitarian triumph but politically dangerous as “it may kneecap an already buckling public healthcare system and stoke already explosive levels of xenophobic populism”.

Former health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said a few years ago that “the weight that foreign nationals are bringing to the country has nothing to do with xenophobia”, but with reality.

And Last year, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla mooted billing countries of origin of foreign patients. In the light of this week’s court order, this now seems unlikely.

A regional health official, Dr Phophi Constance Ramathuba, was also filmed ranting at a Zimbabwean patient about the cost of treating foreigners; telling it was putting a huge strain on her health budget.

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