Officials stumble upon Jo'burg hospital of horrors

Eleven people who were allegedly carrying out illegal abortions were arrested in central Johannesburg, the city said on Monday.

City officials and metro police came upon a makeshift hospital of horrors on Friday when they were trying to clean central Johannesburg of “poster pollution”, said city of Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane.

Modingoane said officers were tracking down “doctors” who were sticking leaflets advertising their services on electricity poles and traffic lights.

“It really creates an eyesore, they put the leaflets on top of each other, our team was dealing with that.”

After telephoning the “doctors”—and pretending to be interested clients—officers eventually obtained the address of a building in central Johannesburg.

“On arrival they witnessed more infringements than what they were looking for.

“[The officers] started investigating each and every room. We found they converted [some of the rooms] into illegal surgeries”.

Modingoane said an assortment of medical equipment ‒- specifically gynaecological equipment and drugs—was found in the rooms.

Conditions were extremely unhygienic.

“Everything that had been used was still on the floor.”

Modingoane said boxes of tablets to induce labour, a number of used condoms, and gloves—some with blood still on them—were among the articles found in the building.

Bloodstains could also be seen on the floors.

“In one room were panties with bloodstains all over,” said Modingoane.

Modingoane said police were investigating what had happened to the aborted foetuses.

He said people using the building had spoken of finding a foetus next to a dustbin.

The building itself was in an extremely bad condition with handmade partitioning which could be life-threatening in the event of a fire, said Modingoane.

City officials managed to arrest eleven people but others managed to flee.

Law enforcement, the Department of Health and immigration officers were called to the building on the corner of Commissioner and Eloff Streets.

Two people were found to be illegally in the country and were taken away for deportation.
Nine others had legal permit papers.

None of those arrested could produce any documents verifying they had a legal permit to run a surgery.

Those arrested were mainly from Uganda, while a few came from Mozambique.

Modingoane said what was worrying was that the practices seemed to have a steady clientele.

“[There were] registers of people who are coming in for consultations. Some have got receptionists. It’s an operation that is viable and that is working—and that’s very worrying,” he said.

“We hear they charge R250 per abortion. That is one of the reasons why young, desperate girls will run to these things and not check the credibility.”

Modingoane said these kind of operations were “very underground” and therefore difficult to trace.

He urged people who were unsure about someone’s medical credentials to check with the city or the Department of Health.

A docket against the eleven people has been opened with the South African Police Service.

Charges would probably be related to contraventions of the National Health Act, health bylaws of the city and drug-control laws, said Modingoane.

The police could not immediately confirm the charges against those arrested.

Modingoane, who visited the site of the “surgeries” himself on Friday, said he was absolutely “shocked”.

“I couldn’t even eat afterwards,” he said. - Sapa

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