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HSPCA criticised for 'limp' sanction for Limpopo MEC

The caution and reprimand issued by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba after last year’s viral video of her rant against a Zimbabwean patient has been described as a slap on the wrist.

And now the EFF is demanding that the controversial MEC, who also caused a stir in another viral video in which she was heard chastising 'idle' clinic staff, not to attend tomorrow's State of the Province address (Sopa) in the Limpopo legislature, notes MedicalBrief.

In a News24 report, the party blames Ramathuba for vigilante groups threatening foreigner seeking healthcare services in SA.

The party also attributed medication shortage, dilapidated infrastructure and corruption to Ramathuba's failed leadership in the provincial healthcare sector.

It said it would call on Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha to fire the MEC if she failed to recuse herself from the Sopa.

"The EFF welcomes the findings by the HPCSA. However, the sanction of reprimand is too soft, given the damage her actions caused to the health sector.

"It was because of her actions that vigilante groups, like Operation Dudula, threatened and victimised fellow African brothers and sisters seeking healthcare services in South Africa."

The MEC’s dehumanising diatribe against the patient in a Bela Bela hospital in August, accusing undocumented immigrants of draining the country’s resources, was captured and widely circulated, reports Daily Maverick.

This month, the HPCSA said a caution and reprimand would be imposed on Ramathuba “for unprofessional behaviour and unbecoming (conduct) of a medical professional (for) shouting at … bedside as the patient was vulnerable”.

A ‘limp’ sanction

But there has been disappointment at what is seen as just a slap on the wrist.

Marlise Richter from the Health Justice Initiative said while she welcomed the ruling on what she described as the MEC’s “xenophobic, hostile and disrespectful behaviour”, the sanction was a “limp” one.

“A temporary suspension, removal from the HPCSA register, a fine or compulsory professional service would have been more appropriate, as provided for by the Health Professions Act,” she said.

Ramathuba should not be holding public office and, as a public servant and leader in government, she should also face disciplinary action from her employers, added Richter.

Dale McKinley from Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia expressed similar sentiments.

“We welcome the censure; it is important that health professionals understand that when they do this kind of thing, they must face some kind of consequence. However, we would have preferred more sanctions, other than just a simple reprimand,” he said.

McKinley said Ramathuba’s xenophobic behaviour was unacceptable.

“We are disappointed the HPCSA didn’t say anything about that, but we hope this sends a warning to others or those who have abdicated their professional duties in treating everyone equally,” he added.

Nigel Branken, one of those who filed a complaint with the HPCSA, said the narrative that foreigners are to blame for poor healthcare services and for placing a burden on the system is factually incorrect.

He said foreign nationals and undocumented migrants are catered for in the MEC’s budget allocation as they are both counted in the distribution of revenue based on population.

“It is factually incorrect that migrants are not being catered for in the National Treasury allocations,” he said.

The MEC’s comments had resulted in a far-reaching effect, with Operation Dudula members reportedly visiting certain areas of Gauteng demanding South Africans get treated first for healthcare.

“At the least, she should have been forced to issue an apology in a public statement correcting the misinformation she shared,” added Branken. “Politicians must be held accountable and stop scapegoating foreigners.”

What does the law say?

The Constitution says everyone has the right to health (section 27(1)(a)) and every child the right to basic healthcare services (section 28(1)(c)).

This right applies to everyone, says Sibusiswe Ndlela, an attorney at public interest law organisation SECTION27.

“The National Health Act (NHA) 61 of 2003 …gives effect to the constitutional rights to health. Section 4(3) makes provision for the healthcare services that must be offered free.

“It provides that the State, community health centres and clinics must provide: (1) free healthcare services to pregnant and lactating women and children under six (except those on medical aid); free primary healthcare services to everyone (except those on medical aid); and free abortion services in terms of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996,” Ndlela said.

Outside free healthcare services, patients are classified as either fully paying or subsidised, under the Uniform Patient Fee Schedule.

Ndlela said those who are fully paying include some categories of non-South African citizens, like those who come to this country on a medical visa. However, this does not apply to non-South African citizens on temporary work or residence permits, or non-South African citizens from SADC states who enter South Africa illegally.

Therefore, the right to healthcare services applies to everyone – not just citizens.


Daily Maverick article – Health Professions Council of SA sanctions Limpopo MEC Phophi Ramathuba over xenophobic diatribe (Open access)

News24 -why-the-eff-wants-limpopos-health-mec-to-recuse-herself-from-thursdays-sopa-

See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Limpopo MEC under fire over migrants comments


Foreign patients: a burden on the system, or scapegoats for poor management?


Health Department disowns instruction on turning away foreigners


Medical xenophobia and discrimination widespread in Gauteng health care




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