Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie could end up in jail if he follows through on his hypothetical scenario of turning off an immigrant’s oxygen to prioritise a South African national, according to the Progressive Health Forum (PHF).

“Moreover, hospitals are regulated spaces and any unauthorised entry and interaction by private persons, including politicians or even a licenced 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,” said Dr Aslam Dasoo, convener of the PHF.

Dasoo stated that when a politician or public figure publicly proposes physically attacking hospital patients, they are explicitly violating the country’s laws. Not only is a patient’s constitutional and human rights violated, but the entire professional and ethical framework of healthcare is jeopardised.

McKenzie’s comments on television came after Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba was caught on camera lecturing a patient in hospital about how she and other Zimbabweans were depleting the province’s limited healthcare resources.

She concluded her monologue, which elicited laughter from her male delegation, by informing the patient that she would have to pay for her treatment.

Heated responses have poured in, both for and against Ramathuba.

McKenzie defended his stance on cutting a foreign national’s oxygen supply in an interview with eNCA on Tuesday morning.

The anchor asked several times if this was just political bluster.

“In South Africa, compassion fatigue is being exacerbated by a growing concern that economic migrants or illegal foreigners are using the asylum system to gain access to basic public services, establish small businesses, and find work,” he said.

Mondli Gungubele, Minister in the Presidency, said in a statement on Tuesday that healthcare workers were “obligated” to provide care to those in need.

“Preventing access to healthcare can have serious consequences for patients, as well as a negative impact on the public health system and the general public. We recognise that the public health system is overburdened as a result of numerous challenges. Doctors and healthcare workers, on the other hand, are obligated to provide healthcare to those in need.”

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