Dietitian’s comments under investigation

Spencer Road Clinic, Salt River.

Health authorities are investigating after a dietitian at a Salt River clinic allegedly told a Muslim woman to convert to Christianity if she wanted her life to improve.

The dietitian continues to work in the public health service, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Shaakirah Easton, 20, says she was visiting the City’s Spencer Road Clinic with her 6-month-old daughter, for a check-up and formula, on Wednesday November 4, when the dietitian started asking her personal questions about her family.

“She asked if my mother worked; I said no. Then she asked how I support my baby. I said it is through my mother with help from my brother and sister’s social grant money.”

The dietitian had asked why she did not stay with the baby’s father and what the father’s religion was.

“I told her that he is Christian, and that is when she said it’s because I am Muslim and he is Christian that I am a single mother and that I must accept Jesus in my life and change to Christianity.”

The dietitian had gone further and told her to listen to Christian radio stations and denounce her Muslim faith as Muslims were killing people.

“I told her she must stop badmouthing my religion, and when I left, she said I must think about what she told me.”

Shaakirah said the same dietitian had told her to listen to Christian radio stations, when she had visited the clinic the month before. It had made her uncomfortable, but she had returned to the clinic last week because she had needed the formula.

However, the latest encounter, she said, had left her distraught and she had told her mother, Ashura Easton, and stepfather, Shamiel Abbas, about it.

Mr Abbas said he and his wife had confronted the dietitian in the presence of the clinic manager, and he had asked her to withdraw her statements and apologise to his stepdaughter.

“She replied that we forgot the bigger picture, which is the health of our daughter, and that she needed to get Jesus in her life,” he said.

Ms Easton said: “I feel sad about what happened to Shaakirah as she is not someone who disrespects anybody.”

The dietitian is a provincial health employee who does outreach work at the clinic.

Provincial Department of Health spokeswoman Monique Johnstone said: “Such instances are taken very seriously and the department has no prejudice towards any religion and is in the process of addressing this matter through the prescribed labour-relations channels.”

Dr Zahid Badrood ien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said the City’s health department was aware of the complaint.

“The matter has been referred to the Metro District Health Service of the Western Cape government, who provide dietetic services on behalf of City Health,” he said.

The City could not comment further until an investigation into the matter had been finalised, he said.

“Medical staff are guided in their dealings with clients by the Hippocratic Oath and the Nurses’ Pledge,” he said.

Ms Johnstone confirmed that the employee had not been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Spencer Road Clinic manager Xolisa Kosani declined to comment or let the Tatler speak to the dietitian.

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