‘When they come, we don’t send them back’: counter-narratives of ‘medical xenophobia’ in South Africa’s public health care system
Kudakwashe P. Vanyoro (2019). ‘“When they come, we don’t send them back”: counter-narratives of ‘medical xenophobia’ in South Africa’s public health care system‘, Palgrave Communications, 5: 101, DOI: https://doi.org/10.105/s41599-019-0309-7 [OPEN SOURCE].
Relying on the experiences of migrant patients, research on migration and health in South Africa has documented a particular concern with public health care providers as indiscriminately practicing ‘medical xenophobia’. This article argues that there is more complexity, ambivalence, and a range of possible experiences of non-nationals in South Africa’s public health care system than the current extant literature on ‘medical xenophobia’ has suggested. Based upon in-depth interviews with frontline health care providers and participant observation at a public health care clinic in Musina sub-District, this article demonstrates how discretion may play a crucial role in inclusive health care delivery to migrants in a country marred by high xenophobic sentiment. It finds that in spite of several institutional and policy-related challenges, frontline health care providers in Musina provided public health care services and HIV treatment to black African migrants who are often at the receiving end of xenophobic sentiment and violence. The article concludes that citizenship, nationality or legal status alone do not appear to tell us much as ‘bureaucratic incorporation’ and ‘therapeutic citizenship’ are some of the modalities through which migrants are constantly being (re)defined by some of South Africa’s health care providers.
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