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Research on the Treatment of Migrants in South Africa’s Healthcare Sector

A political storm has erupted in South Africa after a video went viral showing the health minister for the Limpopo province – which borders Zimbabwe – berating a Zimbabwean woman who was seeking healthcare. Responses have been divided. According to South Africa’s National Health Act, primary healthcare facilities run by the state must provide free care to everyone, except for people covered by private medical aid schemes. This also applies to undocumented migrants who are citizens of any country in the Southern Africa Development Community. For higher levels of care, refugees and migrants must pass a means test. In some situations, irregular migrants must pay the whole cost of medical services. medical xenophobia is a term that scholars use to describe negative attitudes, perceptions and practices of healthcare providers towards non-national patients on the basis of their national origin. Providers include frontline staff like nurses, doctors, clerks and security personnel. The main idea that informs this discrimination is that the patient is an outsider and therefore “undeserving” of care in a public facility. The thinking is that non-nationals are over-burdening the public healthcare system by using resources that are already scarce.