Racism? Very well thanks, and you?
The worst incident of racism I have personally witnesses, in many years, occurred on a recent evening at a local hospital, at a “traditionally” black hospital. A black person was turned away, denied relatively urgent treatment, on the basis that he did not have his work permit with him – at 21h15 at night.
Whites are terrible at racism, all substance and no form... name-calling and other shallowness – bring an injured black foreigner or white person to a public hospital and you will see what proper racism is. In support of this harsh contention, think of the late Corrie Sanders or read on about an experience discussed by few but doubtless, shared by many.
A staff member was badly injured in a recent incident that left him with a severe diagonal slash across his wrist. The injury was of the sort that is regularly associated with suicide attempts in movies and television programs – although incidentally the injury in this case was not suicidal.
Much like the movies portray those hectic slashes, the wound bled very heavily and the flow was exceedingly difficult to staunch. A firm, cinematic appreciation resulted in the application of a tourniquet, elevating the arm, sterilising it and bandaging firmly before rushing off to hospital.
Whether by sheer fluke or otherwise, the wound stopped bleeding and the patient was rushed off to the closest hospital.
The security staff were enormously helpful, as were other staff members and patients, quickly pointing our contingent in the direction of the triage office. Our understanding of this office was that the patient’s wound would be assessed and he would be treated with the relative urgency that the wound demanded.
At this stage, our staff member was very dizzy and barely able to walk without support, from loss of blood. (Apologies, at this stage to those with a constitution as weak as the author’s, but the gruesome picture is necessary.)
The triage assessment quickly established that he was not South African… much to our confusion, as we were under the impression that the assessment was to establish the urgency of treatment, not the nationality of the patient. The unfriendly triage admission person was interested only in the reason why a foreign national was accompanied by whites and at a hospital for locals, without so much as looking at his injury.
A crisp diagnosis of "You are too foreign."
He was quickly advised that he would not be treated without his passport and work permit, presumably to provide an explanation for his abominable presence in South Africa, and referred to another hospital some distance away.
The balance of this account is not relevant, save to assure readers that the injured man received the necessary treatment and is recovering well.
The issue at hand though, is how a hospital can turn away a person that has a spectacularly bloody injury, as evidenced by the bandages, because he does not have his passport and work permit with him? At nine o’ clock at night! I believe that the laws of apartheid required a “dompas” and it appears that not much has changed.
If you are a black person in the wrong place, at the wrong time, you might well be treated only with contempt – and not the medical treatment you require.
Is this the Ubuntu of which South Africans allege convenient pride, or does the iniquity (not only the inequity) of apartheid still live in the daily experiences of those who originate from north of the Limpopo?