ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 8 March 2007

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Thirteen percent of the 10,274 babies born at the Coronation hospital in Johannesburg last year had foreign mothers, the Democratic Alliance said on Thursday. This was placing great stress on South African health care facilities, DA health spokesman Jack Bloom said. "Treatment is free for maternal health services, even for foreigners. "My estimate is that it costs the hospital more than R10 million every year to assist foreign mothers to give birth in SA," he said. Bloom said medical staff had language difficulties because most of these 1309 mothers were from countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Pakistan and India. "They also complain of the extra work in treating the foreigners, who often give false local addresses." Bloom said a change in policy was required for those from further afield. "The influx from neighbouring countries is probably inevitable, but I think we need to look after our own interests first. SADC countries are OK, but those from far away need to be dealt with." Spokesman for the Gauteng department of health Vusi Sibiya said: "the government policy regarding maternal health services does not discriminate. Those services are for free irrespective of whether they are illegal immigrants or not. "When a person comes to deliver a baby they cannot be turned away. It is not up to us to determine their legal status."