Court denies asylum seeker’s medical care request in important test case

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An urgent application brought by an Ethiopian asylum seeker who wanted to force a Johannesburg hospital to give her medical care has been dismissed, says a Sowetan report. The High Court (Johannesburg) has ruled in favour of the Helen Joseph Hospital after the foreign national wanted to be kept on chronic haemodialysis treatment after her kidneys failed.

Judge Motsamai Makume dismissed the urgent application brought by Alem Bazabe Ereselo, who had her treatment discontinued by the hospital, west of Johannesburg, earlier this year. The report says Ereselo had approached the court after the hospital had notified her that it would terminate her acute haemodialysis because, among others, she was not a South African citizen and did not possess “verified documents pertaining to refugee status or permanent citizenship awarded”.

The patient had argued that the Bill of Rights in South Africa’s constitution guaranteed everyone the right to dignity, equality and healthcare. She argued that the hospital was discriminating against her unfairly and as a result she faced prospects that her human dignity would endure denigration and result in her premature death.

Makume, in a 14-page judgment, ruled that Ereselo was not entitled to the relief she sought and the hospital was entitled to refuse providing further treatment to her.

The judge relied, among others, on evidence presented by the hospital’s Dr Malcolm Davies, in which he laid bare the chronic shortage of dialysis slots and the hospital’s inability to take new patients.

Makume quoted Davies’ evidence which indicated that Ereselo was put on temporary haemodialysis in ‘an effort to stabilise her condition and for her family to make proper arrangement to have her moved to another facility’.

Davies indicated that Ereselo and her brother were given a letter to take to the Ethiopian embassy with the view to assist her with repatriation to Ethiopia.

‘The applicant was never refused emergency treatment; this is common cause and can never be disputed. Her condition was stabilised and steps were taken to assist her with expedited repatriation to Ethiopia so that when she arrives there she can receive permanent treatment,’ Makume wrote in his judgment.

The judgment did not make an order on costs.

Sowetan report

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