DA condemns forced sterilizations in KZN government hospitals

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

The DA strongly condemns the alleged forced and uninformed sterilizations that have been meted out to unsuspecting women giving birth at government hospitals in the province.

According to a recent media report, at least 24 women have given sworn statements to advocacy groups in the last month alone detailing how they were reportedly made to sign consent forms while they were in labour. They were allegedly not told that the signed forms would result in them being sterilized.

Hospitals named in the report are Prince Mshiyeni, Addington, Richards Bay and Port Shepstone. It is likely that more women will come forward and other government hospitals will possibly be implicated.

The alleged conduct of these health care professionals is completely unacceptable. The Health Department needs to respond and deal with this crisis as a matter of urgency as it will bear the brunt of all litigation. As it stands, the department is already facing litigation costs of  a few billion rand; the majority of which are related to obstetrics and gynaecology.

According to the National Health Act, health care providers have to make sure that they their patients are fully informed of all risks, benefits, consequences and costs related to all medical procedures. The Act also gives patients the right to refuse health services and stipulates that no such service can be conducted without consent from the patient unless the patient in question gives such powers to someone else in writing  or if the patient is unable to, then a family member as defined in the act.  In other circumstances the service may be mandated by a court order

If these allegations have merit clearly the department is in breach of the Act, along with South Africa’s Bill of Rights which states that everyone has the right to freedom of choice in terms of their reproductive health.

A woman in labour is at her most vulnerable and it is atrocious that government hospitals are reportedly preying on them in this manner. I am therefore calling on Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo to give this matter the seriousness that it warrants and to put plans in place to make sure all hospitals under his watch abide by all the guidelines spelled out by the Bill of Rights and the National Health Act.

I shall be writing to him to raise the seriousness of the matter and will ask through the health portfolio committee for a detailed explanation as well as investigation into the matter.