JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African man shot three weeks ago was told to "walk the pain off" and is still trying to persuade hospitals to remove the bullet lodged in his side, a newspaper said Thursday.

Three Johannesburg hospitals refused to remove the bullet for security guard Phillip Mashiane, 38, who was shot during a burglary at the property of South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations, the Star newspaper said.

The bullet passed through his elbow and entered his body just above the hip, missed his vital organs and stopped beneath the skin on the opposite side of his body, the Star said.

Mashiane told the paper he was turned away by one private hospital because he could not afford the bills while a public hospital took X-rays and kept him in for observation before patching him up and sending him home with painkillers.

When he returned a doctor told him to "walk the pain off."

Doctors at a third hospital said it could not remove the bullet because Mashiane had started treatment elsewhere.

"I want my life back. I need to work and all I ask is for them to help me," Mashiane told The Star.

South Africa is battling some of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and its underfunded public hospitals struggle to treat all those who need healthcare.

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