New law on doctors: Zuma ‘must tell Mbeki not to sign’

2008-05-22 00:00

Cape Town — The DA has taken the unusual step of petitioning ANC president Jacob Zuma to intervene in stopping the proposed Health Professions Amendment Act from being signed into law.

DA Health spokesman Mike Waters has accused Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang of running a “reign of terror” over the health care system.

Waters yesterday called on Zuma to “instruct” President Mbeki not to sign the proposed act into law, saying it is aimed at “stifling democracy and undermining access to health care”.

“Zuma should begin to set a positive tone for his likely presidency of the country by not allowing it to come into effect,” Waters said.

The Health Amendment Act, passed in 2006, takes the power of doctors and dentists to appoint representatives to their own controlling body away from them, and gives this power to the minister.

Waters said the law contains “massive potential” for abuse of power.

“The minister justified the bill on the grounds that elections are ‘too expensive’ and that the various existing councils falling under the act needed to be ‘transformed’.

“At the time it was passed, health professionals rejected it. They provided evidence that the various councils were already representative of the various population groups — for example 68% of the members of the Medical and Dental Professional Board were from previously disadvantaged groups.”

Waters said that, since his election to the leadership of the ANC, Zuma has spoken out strongly on some of the more populist matters affecting South Africa, including Zimbabwe and labour laws, but he has been quiet on many other critical issues.

“He needs to start giving South Africans a better idea of where he will stand. The bevy of laws introduced by the Health minister in recent years is now part of the old order.

All South Africans who have experienced the deterioration of public health facilities under Dr Tshabalala-Msimang would appreciate signs of a less antagonistic and destructive environment in the future.

“Since the Polokwane election there has been a profound shift in the thinking of the ANC caucus in Parliament.

“It is no longer certain that legislation passed two years ago still represents the views of the legislature and it is clear that the Health minister no longer has the support she once did. This is further grounds for putting on hold the implementation of any laws that will profoundly affect the post-2009 environment.”

Earlier this week, the DA also called for a reconsideration of the proposed National Health Amendment Bill before crucial medical skills are lost to South Africa.

The DA spokesman said the government should be actively pursuing ways to enable the private sector to co-operate with the public sector in the delivery of public health services.

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