Steve Biko Academic Hospital

For immediate release

Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) is a black trans* and intersex organisation from South Africa focusing on black trans* and intersex issues in black townships and rural areas. We lobby and advocate for transgender and intersex human rights. TIA strives to promote tolerance, inclusion and recognition of trans* and intersex human rights.

For over a decade Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been one of the medical institutions in South Africa that provides gender reassignment therapy. However, the trans* community still experiences difficulties in accessing the hospital’s services. Many underprivileged patients have complained of unsatisfactory treatment from the hospital.

Their complaints include:
• Poor health service delivery.
• The hospital follows outdated standards of care and there are no clear medical guidelines for trans* patients.
• Denying trans* patients access to medical care by referring them to an expensive private psychiatrist for mental evaluation and diagnosis before they can be accepted as the hospital’s patients.
• Using unfair criteria to determine which trans* patient gets access to their services i.e. the “passing” get better treatment than those who do not pass according to stereotypical gender binaries. The hospital also prioritises working class in comparison to the unemployed trans* patients.
• The hospital does not recognize the importance of dispensing hormonal treatment for trans* individuals regardless of their financial background.
• The hospital does not give patients the opportunity to express themselves in their mother tongue

TIA’s arguments:

• It is unfair for a public hospital to refer underprivileged patients to a private doctor before they can be assisted by the hospital.
• Every hospital should have clear and accessible guidelines on how to deal with specific patients.
• Denying patients the opportunity to express themselves in their mother tongue impacts on the outcome and decision taken during evaluations.
• We are disappointed that Steve Biko Academic Hospital does not recognize the value and contribution of other public health practitioners by refusing referral letters from respected professionals.
• Steve Biko Academic Hospital should align their standards of care with other trans* friendly hospitals in the country such as Groote Schuure in Cape Town which has been the only hospital in South Africa that tries its best to provide and improve trans* community health care.
• A public/ Government hospital cannot prioritise patients based on employment. It is not only unconstitutional, but also further marginalises/ distances trans* people from access to services. Due to other socio-economic factors, trans* people are already the most marginalised groups, and early school drop-outs, ID book situation, and many other factors lead to unemployment for trans* people.

“ I feel like they do not make any efforts to assist me. They do not know where I come from and how it feels like to live as a trans person. Their system failed me”-says Catrecia from Mamelodi, who has been a patient at Steve Biko for 5 years without any success.

“Steve Biko Hospital is very poor towards trans people. I feel like they are undermining us by telling us that we are not in any crisis and can continue to live just fine without gender reassignment surgery”-says Revelation, outreach officer at TIA who was a patient at Steve Biko Hospital for 2 years without any success.

“ The psychiatrist used is not allowing appropriate health care for all groups, there should be staff sensitization at the hospital” –says Leighann van der Merwe, coordinator, SHE

“It is shocking that a government health institution clearly stigmatises and discriminates transgender people, they measure and decide transgender people’s access to care by different standards than they do the general population” – says Sibusiso Kheswa, Advocacy Coordinator, Gender DynamiX

We urge Steve Biko Hospital to reconsider their approach and methods of working with transgender patients. Nature chooses who will be transgender, individuals do not choose this. Transgender health care is not a privilege but a human right- says Tebogo Nkoana, the founder and executive director at TIA.

TIA is meeting with the hospital’s panel responsible for trans* patients on the 26 September 2012. We are going to encourage change and the importance of fair medical services for the trans* community.

For more information contact:
Nthabiseng Mokoena
Advocacy coordinator

Tebogo Nkoana
Executive director

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