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City’s Health Department struggles to cope with undocumented persons

JOHANNESBURG – The City of Johannesburg struggles under the strain of undocumented patients within the healthcare system.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said the City’s Health Department is struggling to cope with an increasing number of undocumented patients who visit its public health facilities.

According to the statement from the City of Johannesburg, the health department began compiling a report on the number of documented and undocumented persons accessing primary healthcare services across all seven regions of the City’s clinics in December last year.

The City said the secondary data analysis extracted from the electronic health records system on 66 of the 81 city clinics found that 15 to 39 per cent of the patients accessing healthcare services across the various regions are undocumented. These include both South African and foreign national patients.

“Data extracted from the electronic health system shows that the number of undocumented patients has increased from 32 092 to 82 923 between 2016 and 2018. The number of asylum seekers and those holding foreign passports patients has remained constant,” said Mashaba in the statement.

The mayor added some South African patients might not disclose their identification due to various health reasons in order to protect their perceived position in society or family structures. He also said illegal immigrants also opt to conceal their identity to avoid potential deportation. 

“Indeed, the fear of deportation also causes some undocumented immigrants to stay away from seeking health care till the last possible minute. Often, placing themselves in danger.

“I am troubled by the number of pregnant undocumented persons who reportedly present themselves at the city’s clinics at the eleventh hour. Our clinics are not meant to deal with emergency deliveries, and these are some of the difficulties we deal with on a daily basis.”

The mayor said the City has limited resources and it will need the national government to assist address the issue.

“The Constitution guarantees health care to all, however, we have limited resources and our systems are under severe strain. We need the national government and Home Affairs to assist so as to properly budget for services which need to be provided arising from this constitutional responsibility.”


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