Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie
PHOTO: Bertram Maglas/TIF News
- Gayton McKenzie could face criminal charges if he carried out the supposed pulling of the oxygen plug from a foreign national to give it to a South African.
- The Progressive Health Forum warned that a politician had no right to interact with a patient, without the patient’s consent.
- McKenzie’s controversial remarks came after Phophi Ramathuba’s rant at a Zimbabwean patient.
Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie could find himself behind bars should he carry out his hypothetical scenario of switching off the oxygen of an immigrant to prioritise a South African national, the Progressive Health Forum (PHF) warned.
The convener of the PHF, Dr Aslam Dasoo, told TIF News:
In resource-constrained environs, health professionals may ration care only on scientific and ethical measures, not on race, ethnicity, gender or nationality, eschewing, by oath, any prejudice and bigotry to discriminate.
“Moreover, hospitals are regulated spaces and any unauthorised entry and interaction by private persons, including politicians or even a licensed healthcare professional, who have not obtained the express consent of a patient, the attending professional or the management, to address them, [or] access their confidential information or violate their rights is prohibited, on pain of arrest.”
Dasoo said when a politician or a public figure publicly proposes physically attacking hospital patients, they expressly violate the laws of the country. Not only are the constitutional and human rights of a patient violated, but the entire professional and ethical framework of healthcare is compromised.
READ | ‘An incitement to murder’: Gayton McKenzie slammed over ‘oxygen’ comments
McKenzie’s comments on television came after Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba was filmed lecturing a patient in hospital on how she and other Zimbabwean nationals were draining the province’s limited healthcare resources.
She ended her monologue, which elicited laughter from her delegation, which included men, by telling the patient that she would have to pay for her treatment.
Heated responses, either for or against Ramathuba, have streamed in.
In an interview with eNCA on Tuesday morning, McKenzie defended his stance on cutting a foreign national’s oxygen supply.
The anchor checked several times whether this was just political rhetoric, but he stuck to his guns.
“I was criticised for saying I will unplug the oxygen, which I will do as a leader. I would do that – as a government official, I am supposed to do that,” said McKenzie, who has no known doctor’s or nursing qualification.
“If there is a South African, Zimbabwean or Mozambican patient on oxygen, and I see a South African patient, born and bred in South Africa, I will turn the oxygen off, so that the South African can live.”
Keymanthri Moodley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine and the director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at Stellenbosch University, said according to the National Health Act, everybody in South Africa is entitled to emergency healthcare, including refugees and illegal immigrants.
She conceded that the quality of healthcare is “sub-optimal at best”, and is under strain because demand exceeds supply disproportionately.
Moodley added that having a high national population, which is constantly increasing due to the constant influx of citizens of other African countries into South Africa, exacerbates the demand for health services.
This high demand cannot be met by the current healthcare system. It is not surprising that South African citizens feel that their access to public healthcare is diluted by a huge demand for healthcare from non-SA citizens. So the government needs to improve border control. And it needs to improve public health services for all.
But Moodley stressed this was not the role of healthcare professionals. It was the duty of the government.
Dr Callixte Kavuro, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Public Law at Stellenbosch University, said McKenzie and Ramathuba’s views bordered on hate speech, and it sent a disturbing message to the public and public service providers that health resources should be kept for South Africans only.
This could have dire consequences on the protection offered to refugees and asylum seekers, in terms of the Refugees Act, he said.
READ | FACT CHECK: No, MEC Ramathuba, poor management is killing Limpopo hospitals – not immigrants
“In South Africa, the compassion fatigue is gradually worsened by a growing concern that economic migrants or illegal foreigners use the asylum system to enter South Africa to gain access to basic public services, establish small businesses, and to find jobs,” he said.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said, in a statement on Tuesday, that healthcare workers were “obligated” to provide care to those who need treatment.
“Preventing access to healthcare can have dire consequences to patients and have a negative impact on the public health system and to citizens at large. We understand that the public health system is overburdened because of many challenges. However, doctors and healthcare workers are obligated to provide healthcare to those in need.”
TIF News reached out to McKenzie for comment. It will be added once received.