SA detains foreign women, new born babies over hospital bills
Pamela Shumba Senior Reporter
FOREIGN women, including Zimbabweans who give birth in South Africa, are being detained with their new born babies after failing to pay the exorbitant medical bills.
Zimbabwe’s consular-general in South Africa Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro confirmed receiving the reports.
He, however, could not give further details but indicated that most of the affected women were illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.
“We’ve received a number of reports that new mothers from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries are being detained in hospitals here in South Africa over medical bills. I can’t give further details at the moment because we’re still investigating,” said Mukonoweshuro.
He said it was wrong for South African Hospital authorities to do so as the law prohibits such actions against all people regardless of race or colour.
According to reports, some women are being detained for as little as R200. Some Zimbabweans with relatives in South Africa told The Chronicle that they had to send money in order for their relatives to be freed.
“My daugther gave birth at a hospital in South Africa and she didn’t have enough money to pay her medical bill. They detained her at the hospital and threatened to have her arrested if she didn’t pay. She only managed to go home after I sent her the R800 that she was owing the hospital,” said Makhwelo from Cowdray Park.
An official at the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), confirmed receiving reports that some hospitals in the neighbouring country were detaining women for non-payment of bills.
She, however, said it was illegal for hospitals to turn away or detain new mothers and their babies.
“The National Health Act provides that all pregnant and lactating woman, and all children below the age of six — regardless of nationality — are eligible for free health-care services,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Last year, a seriously ill 12-year-old finally received the treatment she needed for her heart condition after a High Court order.
She had been turned away by Steve Biko Hospital because she was undocumented and her family was unable to pay the R250,000 deposit.
Experts have said only an inclusive system can ensure the health and survival of all those living in South Africa. They said South Africans would also benefit from the treatment of foreigners rather than their exclusion as communicable diseases such as tuberculosis put the whole population at risk.