Pietermaritzburg - Two women, dubbed the “Hospital Hustlers”, have allegedly been stealing from vulnerable and ill patients at hospitals in Pietermaritzburg and Howick.The women, dressed in “Muslim attire” from head to toe, have allegedly befriended groggy patients or pretended to be relatives before stealing their personal belongings. St Anne’s Hospital, Midlands Medical Centre and Medi-Clinic Hospital declined to comment on the alleged incidents. One woman, who had been admitted to St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg two weeks ago, said her cellphone went missing after a woman dressed in a “Muslim garb” visited her, pretending to know her. Groggy“I had just returned to my ward after my CAT scan and was really groggy and tired. I was sitting on my bed eating my supper when a lady dressed in an all-black garb visited me,” said the patient, who asked not to be named. The patient said she could only see the woman’s eyes and fingers and although she did not know who she was, she spoke to the woman. She said the woman asked how she was feeling and told her that “Mummy will come visit soon”.“She kept talking about her mother. I asked how she knew I was in hospital and she said ‘Mummy told me’. I was confused but thought maybe, with my medication, I was slow in recognising who this was,” she said. The patient said the woman began brushing her hair and even opened her bedside drawers. She said the nurses were nowhere to be seen. “I thought I was with someone I knew.”“She saw my nightgown in my cupboard and asked me why I had brought the red one when she had bought me a new blue gown,” the patient said. She said although she was confused she did not ring the bell to alert the nurse. “It must have been the medication I was on but I complied with whatever she said. She even asked me to walk with her to the car because she had toiletries for me and I just followed blindly,” the woman said. She said the woman, “with thin and dark fingers”, never mentioned a name but continued with her to the reception area. The woman said she was told to take off her earrings as her visitor had bought her new earrings. “Thank God I didn’t take off my earrings and the moment she left for her car to fetch something I returned to my ward and found that my Samsung phone was missing,” the patient said. iPad stolenAnother patient admitted at the Medi-Clinic Hospital in Howick had her iPad stolen after a woman dressed in similar Muslim attire visited her on Sunday. The Witness contacted the woman last week and she referred us to a friend as she was about to enter the hospital’s operating theatre.The friend, who asked not to be named, said her 73-year-old friend was alone in her ward when a woman came just before the 3 pm visiting hours on Sunday. “She was alone and laying on her bed because she depends on her oxygen tank. A lady came in and pulled her buzzer away from her,” she said. According to the friend, the woman in Muslim garb said she was in the wrong ward and left. “It was only a little later when she was looking for her iPad did she realise it was missing. That lady was the only lady that came into her room and she realised it must have been her who stole it,” she said. Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the police were aware of the incidents and urged patients and the community to be on high alert. “People must not allow these women to take advantage of them,” Ngobese said. Causing harm to the Muslim religionMeanwhile, Muslim community leader and academic, Mohamed Saeed, said he had heard about the incidents taking place at the local hospitals. Saeed described the Burqa (Muslim garment) as a “religious obligation” one chooses. “In that way we expect those who wear the Burqa to behave in a religious manner and not commit crimes. To hear about this is truly disrespectful and unacceptable,” Saeed said. He said if the criminals were wearing Muslim attire to commit crimes “then they are causing harm to the Muslim religion and portraying the Burqa in a negative image”.He urged the culprits to immediately stop using the Burqa for such deeds and called on all the victims to report their cases to the police. UKZN lecturer Dr Lubna Nadvi said this was a rather unfortunate case where criminals are using religious outer garb for their criminal activity. Nadvi said that although the criminals were using Muslim attire, it was really about criminals trying to get easier access to their victims and not about the clothing they wore. She said people should also refrain from assuming that these criminals were Muslim. The Burqa or cloak is an attire worn my Muslim women to conceal their bodies and faces during prayer. The face-veiling portion is usually a rectangular piece of semi-transparent cloth with its top edge attached to a portion of the head-scarf so that the veil hangs down covering the face and can be turned up if the woman wants. Sometimes the veil is attached to one side, and covers the face only below the eyes, allowing the eyes to be seen.