EXCLUSIVE: 'I did nothing wrong' - woman who circumcised Noordgesig schoolboys

2015-11-05 18:16
The Fleurhof house where the Noordgesig learners were taken for circumcisions. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

The Fleurhof house where the Noordgesig learners were taken for circumcisions. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - The manager of a clinic accused of circumcising primary school boys at a house in Fleurhof, Johannesburg, without their parents' consent has denied any wrongdoing.

In an exclusive interview with News24, Cynthia Gama said she was unfairly getting all the blame following an uproar by angry parents at Noordgesig Primary School near Soweto.

"I'm angry, sister."

Non-profit organisation Right to Care has terminated its contract with her since protests broke out at the school on Tuesday.

Yet, Gama is adamant staff at her clinic, operating from a small house in western Johannesburg, did nothing illegal and all the parents received letters informing them where their children would be.

She was shocked people claimed they knew nothing about where the children were taken for circumcisions.

145+ boys circumcised

Since opening the clinic, more than 145 boys have been circumcised at the site she, told News24.

Three weeks ago, on the day the Noordgesig boys were taken for circumcisions, another group of boys from Thembalethu Primary school were also there, she said.

There was a total of 57 boys at the house - 17 from Thembalethu and 40 from Noordgesig. Only three from Noordgesig were circumcised, she said.

"It was late in the day, so we sent them back."

One of the biggest concerns raised by the Noordgesig parents was that their children were taken home in the early hours of the morning between 01:00 and 04:00.

When asked why the boys were dropped off so late, the woman said the boys had been brought to the house in buses, but in the evening, when the boys were supposed to be taken home, one of the drivers said he had had a puncture.

Parents never complained to me - Gama

When told about the allegations posed by the parents who allege their children were beaten with brooms; told their HIV status in front of other children and watched as the other kids were being cut, she said no parent had come to the house to confront her or ask her questions.

"Why didn't they come with the kids? I would have lined my staff up and asked the kids to point out which one hit them."

Gama said after days of receiving complaints from parents, she, as well as officials from Right to Care, went to the school to apologise to the parents.

"I went to Noordgesig to apologise and they were saying they were not happy... There were lots of parents there. They were saying we are not registered, we are not nurses...it's a house not a clinic. That is when Right to Care kicked in to explain."

‘House met requirements’

She said the three-bedroom house had met the Right to Care requirements to operate as a site where circumcisions could be done.

One bedroom was used as an HIV testing room, the other as a theatre where the procedure was done and the third a check-up room used for patients on their return to the clinic 24 hours after the procedure.

"When we are testing them for HIV, we do not give them feedback. If he is positive, we don't cut them, he has to be referred to a hospital... We know what we are doing."

Gama was adamant she and her staff followed procedure.

When News24 visited the house this week, there was no sign the house was a circumcision clinic.

It was only through speaking to the neighbours that it was revealed large numbers of young boys were constantly dropped off at the house for circumcisions.

"The only issue here is lack of communication and time," Gama said.

Earlier in the week, three parents told News24 their sons had been part of a group of 40 Noordgesig learners who had been sent for circumcisions.

They admitted they had signed consent forms for the procedure, but the consent letters they received did not specify where the circumcisions would be done.

In the previous years, the school had partnered with a non-governmental organisation aligned with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, but this year the children were taken to a new venue.

Site inspection

After receiving complaints from parents and community members, Right to Care responded by terminating its contract with the Fleurhof clinic.

"Right to Care also investigated the service provider, met with the school leadership, the parents, the Department of Health and the Department of Education," it said in a statement.

"The investigation established the protocols for recruitment of boys in the correct target age group were not followed and timeous communication with the parents did not occur.

"The Fleurhof site was immediately notified [male medical circumcisions] would no longer be supported by Right to Care and the service level agreement with Right to Care was officially terminated."

It said the site had failed to meet the requirements related to recruitment age, communication protocol and operational compliance. However, it had successfully carried out the medical procedures in a clinically acceptable environment.

"An inspection of the site was conducted by Right to Care and the DoH, where no deficiencies were identified from a clinical standpoint.

"Right to Care wishes to confirm all the three boys from Noordgesig Primary School who underwent circumcision are being actively followed by... clinicians as per the post circumcision protocol.

"All the boys are alive and well," it said.

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