“I’m passionate about making a difference while I’m alive,” said Dr. Ivan Jardine an ear, nose, throat (ENT) surgeon in South Africa.
Dr. Jardine is part of essential medical services responding to the debilitating third wave of Covid in Johannesburg. He was arrested, held in jail for 10 hours, charged, released on bail and made to appear in court, twice, for breaking Covid curfew regulations – simply for being on the roads during curfew without a lockdown travel permit. At the time of his arrest, he was returning home from treating a sick patient and, putting his harrowing experience aside, the irony of his arrest is not lost: Government lockdown is to save lives unless you’re actually out there to save lives.
Beginning Monday 28 June, for 14 days, President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed Alert Level 4 on the people of South Africa. One of the restrictions being a night curfew from 9pm to 4am. The night time curfew was re-introduced on 13 July. Dr. Jardine was arrested at 10pm on 16 July. Absurdly, ten days later South Africa entered into Alert Level 3 where curfew begins an hour later at 10pm.
On hearing of his arrest, South Africans took to social media:
Jonathan tweeted “In the middle of a pandemic the Police are arresting doctors for doing their jobs. This level of authoritarian stupidity places the lives of patients at risk. It’s despicable.”
Wesley tweeted “Uncle (Dr.) Ivan Jardine is one of the kindest and most giving souls I know. Terrible that someone, who gives so much to EVERYONE regardless of colour or creed, is treated like this!”
Garth tweeted “URGENT CALL TO ACTION: DOCTOR ARRESTED. If anyone is awake and on Twitter, please make this trend. Dr Ivan Jardine is one of our best. This is outrageous. Retweet, comment and tag everyone you know.”
Dr. Jardine’s first court appearance was on July 19 however the case was postponed to August 5. “No doctor needs a permit for an emergency. If the same emergency arises, I would do the same. No government, no policeman must stop us from performing our duties when an emergency calls,” Dr. Jardine said.
Permit or no permit, Dr. Jardine believed he was wrongfully arrested because in fact the Level 4 Disaster Management Regulations (under Section 17 (1)(b)) do not require permits for people who are “attending to a security or medical emergency”.
His case was withdrawn. He said while in the courtroom for his second appearance, no reason was given to him why the case was withdrawn. “Someone in the courtroom just signalled for me to leave the courtroom,” he said. Dr. Jardine said although the case was withdrawn, he plans to take the matter further.
Dr. Jardine’s arrest thrust into the spotlight the issue of charges against doctors arrested for being outside during curfew hours. The South African Medical Association (Sama) again condemned the arrest of doctors detained whilst attending to medical emergencies during curfew hours.
During an interview with The People’s Voice, Dr. Jardine shared his shocking story and stories of other health care workers who have been harassed by police when performing their duties.
“In my case I was coming back from an emergency,” and “luckily I didn’t have to go and see anybody after that, you know, when I got arrested,” said Dr. Jardine. But in the case of another doctor Dr. Jardine said, “she was harassed going to an emergency.”
The last thing anyone wants is that a patient dies because a police officer obstructed, intimidated or harassed a medical professional. Dr. Jardine wants South African health care workers who have experienced harassment to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org so together they can make their voices heard.
You can watch Dr. Jardine’s interview below: