Concerns over delayed public health law

HARARE - The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has made a passionate plea to MPs and Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa to prioritise the finalisation of the Public Health Amendment Bill before the dissolution of the current Parliament.

CWGH executive director Itai Rusike told the Daily News that the Bill  was in danger of being ignored as the country hurtled towards national elections which are due in three months time.

Parliament would be dissolved just before elections are held.

“CWGH fears that all efforts by civil society organisations (CSOs), Parliament, the Public Health Advisory Board and the general public since 2010 in coming up with such a comprehensive Bill might come to naught if the Bill does not go for the second reading this sitting session as Parliament faces dissolution in preparation for the coming elections.

“It would mean that in-coming legislators would have to be re-oriented and have the process started all over again further delaying the Bill’s finalisation. We urge Parliament and the Health Minister, using the powers vested in his office, to urgently speed-up the finalisation of this powerful and important Bill into an Act to ensure Zimbabweans enjoy their right to health and a healthy environment,” Rusike told the Daily News.

He said its continued delay would be a disservice to everyone who put in their effort and commitment into the Bill.

Zimbabwe currently has the Health Law of the 1924 Act which is now outdated.

Rusike said the Act was not rights based despite being frequently updated.

“It still includes outdated terms like ‘dirty and verminous persons’ in Section 28. This does not reflect post-independent health policy, including in relation to primary health care and community involvement in health,” Rusike said.     

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights executive director Calvin Fambirai said the Bill should be made a priority as it involves people’s lives.

“Why has the Bill taken so long to go for its second hearing and who is sitting on it? The Bill is not something that should be taken lightly as some of the diseases that are occurring could have been avoided had it been there and implemented,” Fambirai said.

The Bill seeks to, among other things, address issues of allowing nurses and other health professionals to take up managerial posts, the evolving disease profiles such as HIV and other non-communicable diseases and harmonisation of health professionals and service providers.

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