Hos­pi­tals turn mom away

In labour, but three re­fused to help her

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - ANNA WA­TERS anna.wa­ters@inl.co.za @an­nawa­ters2018

FRANCINE Ngalula Kalala, the woman who gave birth at Park Sta­tion in the Joburg CBD, was al­legedly turned away from three hos­pi­tals be­cause of her asy­lum sta­tus.

Last year, she and her hus­band Serge fled the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, a cen­tral African coun­try em­broiled in civil strife that has claimed nearly 6 mil­lion lives, to seek asy­lum in South Africa.

They started a new life in Cape Town. Soon there­after, Francine fell preg­nant, and re­ceived pre­na­tal treat­ment at a hospi­tal there. But a month ago, they moved to Pre­to­ria.

At 2am on Thurs­day, Francine went into labour, and af­ter a 20-minute drive, they ar­rived at Tsh­wane District Hospi­tal, ready to re­ceive treat­ment.

But the au­thor­i­ties at the hospi­tal told her they had no bed for her and that she was “not al­lowed to be ad­mit­ted”. She waited in the hospi­tal’s en­trance for hours, watch­ing as other pa­tients, who had ar­rived af­ter her, were given treat­ment.

The con­sti­tu­tion en­ti­tles asy­lum seek­ers to the same ba­sic health ser­vices as South African cit­i­zens, which in­cludes ma­ter­nity care.

Once they re­alised they would not re­ceive treat­ment, Francine and Serge drove to the neigh­bour­ing Steve Biko Hospi­tal, where they were also de­nied med­i­cal care.

Con­fused and des­per­ate, Francine took the Gau­train to Joburg, where Serge’s brother’s wife, also a Con­golese asy­lum seeker, had given birth.

Francine spent the 45-minute train ride to Joburg vom­it­ing as the other pas­sen­gers tried their best to assist her. But when the train pulled into Park Sta­tion at 7am, af­ter Francine had been in labour for more than five hours, her in­fant daugh­ter, Em­manuella, could not wait any longer.

The train doors opened and pas­sen­gers im­me­di­ately cried for help. Se­cu­rity guards quickly came, bring­ing boxes to cre­ate a sem­blance of pri­vacy for Francine to give birth.

They im­me­di­ately called an am­bu­lance, but Francine de­liv­ered her baby on the sta­tion floor.

Twenty min­utes later, an am­bu­lance ar­rived and took Serge, Francine and Em­manuella to Char­lotte Max­eke Aca­demic Hospi­tal – where they were again turned away.

“They said it was the wrong place to bring us, but it was a hospi­tal… How is that the wrong place?” Francine asked.

Serge begged the hospi­tal staff to at least wash Em­manuella or have a doc­tor look at her, as she was be­gin­ning to turn blue. But they were sent to Hill­brow Hospi­tal, where, af­ter eight hours, they fi­nally re­ceived treat­ment.

“This is worse than any­thing that hap­pened to me in the DRC,” Francine said. “I don’t want to stay in this coun­try. I don’t feel wel­come here.”

Serge hopes their story can il­lu­mi­nate the dis­crim­i­na­tory treat­ment of for­eign­ers in South Africa, and hopes the next time a for­eign woman needs med­i­cal help, she is not turned away.

“If any­thing had gone wrong and my baby had died or if my wife had died… I could have lost my fam­ily,” he said. “Can you even be­gin to imag­ine that?”

Gau­train con­firmed that some of its staff mem­bers as­sisted the woman to de­liver the baby and they were both taken to hospi­tal.

“ER24 were im­me­di­ately con­tacted and their am­bu­lance ar­rived shortly af­ter­wards, but by then, the sta­tion staff had al­ready helped to de­liver the baby girl, who ob­vi­ously was in­tent on not wait­ing for the paramedics,” said spokesper­son Ke­sagee Nayager.

“Our staff at Park Sta­tion did a splen­did job as­sist­ing with the de­liv­ery,” he added.

The Star sent email ques­tions to the Tsh­wane, Steve Biko and Char­lotte Max­eke hos­pi­tals on Fri­day, and called their spokesper­sons yes­ter­day, but they had not re­sponded at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Spokesper­son for the Gaut­eng Health De­part­ment Prince Ham­nca said they had checked with Tsh­wane and Steve Biko hos­pi­tals but both said they had no records of a woman named Francine.

If I lost the baby or my wife… Can you imag­ine that?


GAVE BIRTH AT STA­TION: DRC mi­grant Francine Ngalula Kalala nurses her baby Em­manuella.

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