The SA Veterinary Association (Sava), which represents 1,977 vets across the country, has argued in papers filed in the Constitutional Court that Parliament cut corners and short-changed vets ahead of passing legislation that required their licensing for prescribing and dispensing medication. Dr Cynthia Charlotte Nkuna, the director and president-elect of Sava, states in an affidavit that both houses of Parliament “failed to comply with their constitutional obligations to facilitate public involvement” before passing the disputed legislation.
The national Health Department supported the licensing on grounds that “experience had shown that they lack knowledge on compounding and dispensing medicine”
The legislation, the Medicines and Related Substances Act, was proclaimed by former president Jacob Zuma in June last year after it was passed by Parliament. Nkuna said the irregularity by Parliament was that its original draft Bill proposing amendments said nothing about the veterinary industry. “It would seem that the aspect of the licensing of veterinarians came as a rather ill-considered and erroneous afterthought,” said Nkuna.
“The Amendment Bill of February 20, 2014 did not contain anything specifically relating to and affecting veterinarians and the veterinary profession. For that reason, Sava did not participate in the public hearings of October and November 2014 in respect of the Amendment Bill.”
Nkuna said in the report that the word “veterinarian” was slipped into the draft after public hearings had been held. She alleged that this happened at a meeting the portfolio committee on health held to discuss input received from the public. She argued that the insertion of the word should have warranted affording concerned professionals a chance to comment on the Bill.
“Significantly, the list of persons or bodies consulted during the process of the public hearings did not include any persons or bodies from the veterinary profession, such as state and private veterinarians, the SA Veterinary Council or Sava.
“Sava and its members have a right to participate in any consultative process relating to any changes to the statutory requirements for veterinary professionals to practise their profession,” Nkuna added.
The report says veterinarians learnt that the Health Department supported their licensing on grounds that “experience had shown that they lack knowledge on compounding and dispensing medicine”. Nkuna said Sava, founded in 1903, and the entire profession did not accept the department’s justification. She said had the association been invited to make input, it would have made “substantive written and oral submissions against the said amendment”.
Nkuna said licences, which would be issued by the director-general of the Health Department, constituted a “limitation of a veterinarian’s right to compound and dispense medicines”. “For the first time in South African history, veterinarians now have to be licensed before they can exercise their right to compound and dispense medicines.”
The report says Parliament was yet to file its responding affidavit in the Sava application. However, it has indicated to the court that it would opposed the application.The Mercury report (subscription needed)