Migrants sue TA hospital over alleged discrimination

Family allegedly segregated from the rest of the patients, locked in a separate room for three hours and forced to wear masks during their entire stay in the hospital.

Sourasky Medical Center  (photo credit: courtesy)
Sourasky Medical Center
(photo credit: courtesy)
The Hotline for Migrant Workers announced on Tuesday that two migrants, Izak Asido and Plomina Agavo, filed a lawsuit for NIS 132,000 with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court against Sourasky Medical Center alleging discrimination when they came to the hospital on September 3, 2011, seeking care for one of their two small children.
According to a press release, the family was segregated from the rest of the patients, locked in a separate room for three hours and forced to wear masks during their entire stay in the hospital.
The “degrading treatment also manifested in prejudicial statements uttered by the hospital’s staff,” the statement continued.
One of the nurses falsely claimed to the plaintiff-father that “according to the law, Africans who arrive at the hospital have to be segregated from Israelis,” according to the complaint.
It added that one of the doctors explained “there is a problem with foreign workers coming with all sorts of diseases,” “there are serious problems with diseases from Africans” and that it was possible that one of their sons had measles.
Next, the statement said that the father, Izak, tried to explain that he was an Israeli resident, that his children were born in Israeli hospitals, are insured by an Israeli health fund and received all the shots children are supposed to take, but was ignored by the medical staff.
The complaint also says that general efforts to confront the hospital about discriminatory policies have been rejected in a “scornful” manner.
According to the lawsuit, the hospital violated the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Public Places Law, and the directives in the Patient Rights Act that forbid discrimination and demand that patients’ dignity must be maintained during treatment. The complaint also lists several other grounds for damages.
The hospital established a number of special procedures in dealing with migrants, with the Health Ministry’s consent, several months ago.
After past complaints about performing X-rays that migrant patients objected to, a hospital spokesman essentially justified the procedures as allegedly required medically, since, for example, tuberculosis is endemic in African countries, an X-ray to rule out the disease “protects the mother as well as other patients.” Since the regulation was put into effect, four women with “active TB” have been identified, the spokesman said at the time, in justifying the X-rays and other special procedures.
But lawyer Hisham Shabita from the Human Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University, who is representing the plaintiffs, said that “this case points to an egregious practice of discrimination between people solely for the color of their skin.”
“This phenomenon is especially reprehensible considering the fact that this case revolves around medical care provided by one of the largest hospitals in Israel, and that there was absolutely no medical justification of the discriminatory treatment the plaintiffs endured,” Shabita said.
Judy Siegel contributed to this report.