Professional societies have condemned recent incidences of allegedly unacceptable treatment of doctors and colleagues, at the hands of law enforcement, reports News24. The societies who have made their voices heard include the Critical Care Society of Southern Africa (CCSSA), the South African Medical Association (Sama), the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) and the South African Thoracic Society (SATS).
The report says this comes after reports that a seasoned pulmonologist, who has been working around the clock to help combat COVID-19, was allegedly throttled and assaulted by Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers.
The societies allege that this is not the first time frontline workers have experienced such incidents.
Dr Emmanual Taban and his wife, a physiotherapist, were allegedly harassed by officers on the R54 on Saturday, reports The Times. The couple work at the Midstream Mediclinic.
Taban was stopped by unidentified officers on the R54 and was told he was being arrested for passing a truck on a solid white line and driving recklessly. Sama said that Taban claimed he was manhandled, throttled and sworn at. They were taken to Lyttelton police station. Taban also claimed that officers hurled abusive language at them about his ethnicity.
TMPD spokesperson Isaac Mahamba said they still had to obtain a statement from Taban and his wife. “We are busy with an investigation internally and we will get in contact with the doctor to obtain a statement from him and his wife. Meanwhile our members are still continuing with their work.”
Both Taban, a former registrar at the University of Pretoria, who attended Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg, and his wife have been involved in treating patients with COVID-19, says an IoL report. Sama chair Dr Angelique Coetzee says in an IoL report that Taban is a Sama member and is well known for his professionalism and willingness to always help colleagues and patients.
“We cannot have a situation where a doctor who is on his way to assist patients in dire need of care is treated in this way. The TMPD should have handled this situation completely differently with a view to ensuring both his, his wife’s and other people’s safety. Instead it appears that they acted in a heavy-handed manner simply because of Dr Taban’s ethnicity. This entire incident is actually unbelievable,” Coetzee said.
Statement by the CCSSA, Sama, SASA, SATS: Following the recently reported shocking manhandling of Dr Emmanuel Taban and his wife in Gauteng, the CCSSA, SAMA, SASA and SATS wish to condemn incidences of unacceptable treatment by police of fellow doctors and colleagues.
In another recent incident, a senior critical care colleague from Johannesburg was handcuffed before being released by the police after acknowledgement that the travel permit was in order. Other colleagues working on the front line of the pandemic describe similar harrowing experiences by threatening and rude law enforcement officers whilst driving to and from work, at all hours of the day and night. Some colleagues have resorted to remaining at their place of work rather than driving home after hours, for fear of similar treatment.
CCSSA, SAMA, SASA and SATS believe that such treatment by police of any citizen of our country is a violation of human rights and grossly unacceptable. For health professionals, who are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis to deliver much-needed health care to the people of our country, this behaviour by the police is devaluing and deflating. While the the need for law enforcement is understood, the police should be providing protection and support to health professionals working to fight the pandemic and not causing them to fear being tortured and bullied.
CCSSA, SAMA, SASA and SATS particularly deplore the extreme nature of the violence against Dr Taban and his wife at the hands of law enforcement officers and urge the responsible authorities to take urgent action against such police behaviour, and to protect and support all our health care professionals as they strive to serve the people of South Africa during these trying times.
Full News24 report
Full report in The Times
Full IoL report