BY DR MASIMBA MAVAZA | A few weeks ago the world was aghast in shock and utter dismay when it witnessed a virial vedio of the South African Health Official ( Limpopo Province MEC Phophi Ramamathuba savagely abusing a sick and powerless patiant.
In a scene that is reminiscent of hate and zhenophobia, the shameless officer berated a patient from Zimbabwe and wickedly abused her on her sickbed. The behaviour of such a senior government official was deeply depressing and highly flabbergasting.
The ostensible reasons for her melancholic diatribe included the stress that her provincial health system is under, allegedly due to foreigners squeezing out locals. On the vocabulary of the MEC foreigner means Zimbabweans and Mozambicans. Such a bankruptcy of understanding is fed into the pipal you of South Africa who are now going door to door chasing away Zimbabweans accusing them for taking their jobs and their wives.
There is something that is deeply flawed and even hypocritical about the argument that South African ills and misfortunes are the fault of foreigners, particularly Zimbabweans. Scapegoating based on nationality is a vile act and a scar to humanity. This is so particularly where, as in this case, such scapegoating has resulted into etthinic purging in South Africa, in gruesome modern that have not been witnessed elsewhere in the world and in history. This is referencing thrusting petrol-sprinkling tyres around human beings and setting them alight; crushing people’s heads with stones in front of terrified and agonised children and family. Shooting people in cold blood and attacking worshippers at their shrines blaming them for being Zimbabweans.
Let us assume that indeed Zimbabweans were wholly or even significantly responsible for South Africa ‘s failing job markert or its power public services, none of that or more would justify the inhuman, gross and obscene abuse of a patient in the manner that Ms Ramathuba did or at all. There is a place and a time to address illegal immigration issues. That place is not on a sickbed and the timing certainly is not during the sick moments of the patient.
Even if Zimbabwe was in war with South Africa ( which it is not to the best of our knowledge) that is no way to treat its citizens. There are deplomatic communication lines and channels which Ms Ramaphutha could have and should have used. In fact, a few weeks before, the Zimbabweans Foreihn Minister had been in touch with his South African counterpact. Dr Ramaphuta played to the gallery and betrayed the oath of medicine she took. Doctors do not view patients with prejudice. They view each person as a patient and leaves the politics to politicians. The vigilante style exhibited by the MEC and shockingly supported by the president Ramaphosa is shocking and disturbing.
There are two types of treatments under the South African constitution. Firstly there is emergency treatment. Anyone is entitled to this regardless of immigration status, as long as they are in South Africa. Then there is elective treatment. This is whereby people elect or choose as to when and where they would get treatment. Maternity treatment may be an example, barring an emergency delivery.
We must assume, even though it is unclear, that the patient who was abused by Dr Ramathuba was on elective treatment. Even then, the approach was not to abuse her. The approach would have been to treat her and on discharge ensure that mechanisms and processes are triggered and mobilised to force her to pay the medical bill. That is the lawful recourse that is available, not abuse and political gymicking and grand-standing.
Resort to abuse of and savagery against even illegal immigrants will never solve any problems in South Africa. No one is arguing that there are no problems. Nor is anyone condoning any illegal immigration into South Africa. However, this is not even the point here.
The point here is that when a human is lying on a bed in hospital, they have no nationality or status for purposes of treatment. They share one thing with everyone who is ill, which is that they are called are known as patients. The medical profession is blind to colour, language , nationality, status or any human distinction. Its eye must see a sick person in need of care. Dr Ramathuba’s first act of transgression was that she heard a Shona-speaking human being. That is disgraceful of a medical person or of anyone in charge of a health system. She should have heard the common language of patients , which is the cry for treatment rather than the Shona language or any other language for that matter. Patients have only one voice and language: it is the language if pain and distress. Any doctor who hears other voice must get out of the hospital and join vigilantism in the streets.
There has been numerous cases where armed robbers shoot people in the scene of robbery. While they flee the police shoot at, injure and immobilise one or more of them. They call for the ambulance, as they are duty bound to. Beyond a dangerous criminal there may be a guard to that criminal around the cloak in a hospital bed. However, doctors may also be assigned to him round the cloak. The postion here is that looking at that man, the policeman sees a criminal. Looking at the same man, the doctor sees a patient. This is the way it is. Dr Ramathuba should have seen a patient and not an illegal immigrant at a sick bed.
Dr Ramathuba’s gross abuse of the patient and her discriminative behaviour brings the medical profession world-wide into disrepute.The Professionals Health Council in South Africa is the regulatory body governing the profession in SouthAfrica. There is a clear case for Ms Ramathubaba, who is a doctor by profession, to be brought before that body to answer for her vile conduct. This is particularly so because that body should treat all cases fairly , without fear or favour and regardles of the power and status of the offender.
There is a broader concern about Dr Ramathuba’s fortuitous insults of the patient. She is a leader and she must lead by example. If she is not disciplined, South Africans must accept that a door has been opened for nurses, doctors and all medical staff to abuse patients in all hospitals and medical centres up and down the country. This is a monster that Dr Ramathuba has hatched. It will devour her own children and the children of South Africa long after foreigners are out of the picture.
Therefore, while there is a mix of immigration issues and political matters and bi-lateral affairs to be resolved, abusing patients is not only unethical, it is pure wickedness demonic and pure witchcraft.
In a lame justification when Dr Ramathuba was being interviwed by a journalist afterwards, she intimated that the vedio recorded out of context. She also intimated that the patient was given the medical help she needed, which would have been the medical operation. She claimed that the patient was even laughing. The latter excuse is akin to a rapist excusing his behaviour by saying his rape victim appeared to be enjoying it. To confuse medical care with an operation is a mind- staggering exhibition of ignorance. It is particularly worrying when it is coming from a doctor. Care is a holistic package. Caring means caring. It includes , as vital ingredients caring and the show of compassion.
Therefore medical caring is conducted with professionalism, ethics, sensitivity and impeccable sense and show of humanity.
Treating a patient with indignity and insult, as did Dr Ramathuba, is effectively denying them care. Just doing a medical operation when subjecting a patient to inhuman treatment is not caring.
In fact Dr Ramathuba’s behaviour has the potential of placing the lives of patients. The abuse that she dished out on the patient could have spiked her blood pressure; it could have messed up her insulin or coud have wrought all manner of complications in her ailing body. To that extent, Dr Ramathuba could have so easily sent the patient down to her grave.
Finally, I would want to touch on the notion that Zimbabweans are somewhat responsible for the deterioration of public services in South Africa.
It is true that Zimbabweans must enter South Africa lawfully and must abide by the laws of that country .The really demise of South Africans lie in the fact that wealth was never transferred from the small white minority and spread equitable to all. South Africa obtained political independence and is still stuck in a quagmire of economic apartheid. No amount of bashing foreign citizens would mask this. It is something that the South Africans must look in the eye and confont stoically.
What is happening now is that weak South African black politicians, working with the filthy rich white minority owners of South Africa, have invented a Dudula movement. Dudula is essentially a distraction. It is a black-on-black violence. It is a shame and scare on the face of SouthAfrica. Dr Ramaphutha is one of those unwitting or hypocritical politicians who have no appreciation of the underlying and real causes of poverty and inequality in South Africa.
Be that as it may, the relevant regulator must make Dr Ramathuba account for her actions even if her complicit politician bosses let her scot- free.
It is sad that we have people like Hopewell CHIN’ONO and CCC WHO praise South Africa for the humiliation of a fellow Zimbabwean in hospital.
In case one did not know. The poor patient was in for an operation after an accident.
Doctors must not be persuaded by politics. In particular as a doctor you must: Make the care of your patient your first concern. Treat every patient politely and considerately.
Respect patients’ dignity and privacy. Listen to patients and respect their views. Give patients information in a way they can understand.
In this case the minister violated the patient for political gains.
It is only in South Africa that a black African is made to feel that he is a foreigner in his own continent. Good Medical Practice and the Duties of a Doctor, and to their Medical Council’s performance procedures for which they provide the professional underpinning is not measured on migration basis.
The medical staff must not act as immigration officers.
Patients must be able to trust doctors with their lives and health. To justify that trust doctors must show respect for human life and make sure their practice meets the standards expected of them in four domains which are Knowlledge skills and performance.
Doctors must make sure that’ll the care of patients is their first concern. Unlike Rhamathuba doctors must provide a good standard of practice and care. They must keep their professional knowledge and skills up to date.Recognise and work within the limits of your competence. Ramat Ba’s actions exposed her virginity to humanity. Doctors must Take prompt action if they think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is being compromised. Protect and promote the health of patients and the public. They must Treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity. Treat patients politely and considerately.Respect patients’ right to confidentiality.
Work in partnership with patients. Be honest and open and act with integrity.
Never discriminate unfairly against patients or colleagues.
Never abuse your patients’ trust in you or the public’s trust in the profession.
You are personally accountable for your professional practice and must always be prepared to justify your decisions and actions. It is to this end that South africa has to reflect on the institutionalised Xenophobia