The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has reprimanded Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba for unprofessional conduct and unbecoming behaviour after she shouted at a Zimbabwean patient in a Limpopo provincial hospital in August 2022.
SowetanLive reported that though Ramathuba was at the hospital in her capacity as a health MEC (government official), and not a practising doctor, she is a medical doctor by profession.
The opposition EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi laid a complaint with the HPCSA against Ramathuba, accusing her of violating the dignity and human rights of the patient.
Ndlozi was acting in his capacity as the EFF’s Limpopo provincial convener. In his complaint to HPCSA, Ndlozi said:
This follows a disturbing video clip that is circulating on social media where she is seen belittling and abusing a Zimbabwean patient in Bela-Bela Hospital.
It is evident in the video that MEC Ramathuba has violated her core ethical values and standards for good practice as outlined by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa.
The standards say: “healthcare practitioners should respect patients as people, and acknowledge their intrinsic worth, dignity, and sense of value”.
Ndlozi pleaded with HPCSA to investigate Ramathuba’s conduct and take appropriate action against her.
The HPCSA’s first medical and dental committee resolved in January 2023 that there was evidence of unprofessional conduct on Ramathuba in terms of the regulations under the Health Professions Act.
In a report dated 9 February, HPCSA said it will impose a penalty, caution and reprimand Ramathuba “for unprofessional behaviour and unbecoming [conduct] of a medical professional to be shouting at a patient’s bedside as the patient was vulnerable at the time”.
In a video that was widely shared on social media, Ramathuba could be heard telling the patient that migrants were to blame for her department’s stretched budget.
Her words sparked a debate in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, with some in support while others felt she was unfair to the patient.
Ramathuba, however, defended her controversial statement arguing that foreign nationals are abusing South Africa’s health system. She said:
I did stand by its content because I need to share that understanding that they are not doing anything to our surgical backlog, people are abusing the system.
When they hear that the MEC is coming to this district with special care, they leave their country, enter SA illegally, and come to our hospitals but doctors who operate them for ethical reasons even though the Constitution will cover the doctors, but they don’t refuse to operate them.
The South African whom we did this budget for is unable to get operated because they’re still flooding even our initiatives. This is an initiative outside our daily work.