South African public hospitals do not turn away foreign nationals, was health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi's emphatic message to the portfolio committee on health on Tuesday, when he addressed the issue of a Congolese woman who was forced to give birth in Johannesburg's Park Station.
The Star reported that Francine Kalala was allegedly turned away from three hospitals because of her asylum seeker status while she was in labour.
According to Motsoaledi, she was never turned away from a hospital.
He said according to the seven hours worth of CCTV footage he watched, Kalala arrived at the Tshwane District Hospital at 05:23 and left at 05:55.
"The lady was not turned away from Tshwane,"said Motsoaledi. "But she was met by an exceptionally rude nurse."
He said Kalala delivered a baby in Edenvale three years ago.
"At Edenvale the nurses were very good to her. When she hopped on to the Gautrain, she was rushing to Edenvale.
"Unfortunately the baby could not wait," said Motsoaledi.
She delivered the baby at Park Station.
"Nobody should deliver a baby at Park Station. It is very wrong," he said.
He said of the more than 3 500 babies delivered at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital since January, about 46% were born to foreign national mothers.
"Why then should they have turned this one away?"
He praised the majority of doctors and nurses for their hard work but admitted that there is a problem with some staff being rude to patients.
He said one nurse being rude to a person shouldn't lead to a conclusion that South African hospitals discriminate against asylum seekers.
"Even this rude nurse said, 'Go away'."
He said he already spoke to the Tshwane District Hospital's CEO, who himself is a foreign national, to address the issue of the rude nurse.
He called on the media to report responsibly.
"Some of these stories can start fires of hatred," he said."The whole thing was misleading and extremely unfortunate. But it also makes me angry."
The MPs serving on the committee also took a dim view of the news report and advised Motsoaledi to pursue the matter further, but he was happy to state the facts to the committee and said the person who wrote the report - an American intern - already left the country.