Solidarity denounces SA Pharmacy Council’s ‘veiled threat’ regarding NHI

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The Solidarity Occupational Guild for Health Care Professionals has strongly denounced the South African Pharmacy Council’s “apparent veiled threat” as far as the National Health Insurance (NHI) is concerned.

Morné Malan, senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), said that at best the Council is “acting irresponsibly and negligently and at worst clearly in bad faith”.

“The message the council, which in terms of its mandate can institute disciplinary steps or could even de-register members, is sending to pharmacists clearly bears the traits of a friendly obligation. Every pharmacist is called upon to complete and sign a pledge that reads: ‘I, as a Pharmacy Professional, support NHI.’ Compulsory speech such as this is more characteristic of a dictatorship of the former Soviet Union than being typical of a democratic republic.”

The Occupational Guild cautions the Council “to act in a more responsible way, confirming its independence in deeds instead of doing so merely in words”. “Of the Council’s 25 members 16 are appointed by the Minister of Health. Consequently, they should make it their serious business to affirm their impartiality and independence from the minister. They are not there to be the bullies enforcing the minister’s will on pharmacists, even less so to artificially fabricate forced agreement for the Minister’s plans from within the profession,” Malan stated.

The Occupational Guild told its members that they are under no obligation at all to complete and sign the declaration in support of the NHI that is currently being distributed by the Pharmacy Council.

The Pharmacy Council did confirm that the “declaration that you, as a professional pharmacist, support the NHI” is not obligatory and that those who do not reply to the e-mail will not be prejudiced going forward. According to the council, the form is only a survey among pharmacists to determine whether or not they support the NHI.

“We are most unhappy about the way in which the Pharmacy Council wants to enforce the NHI on pharmacists. All our pharmacist members confirmed that they had received the e-mail and shared their concerns with us as they felt pressure from the council to declare their support for the NHI for fear that it could affect the future of their profession. In view of this we contacted the Council which then mentioned that no one is obliged to support the proposal,” Malan said.

Malan concluded: “We call on the council to be more circumspect in how they communicate in future because the council has an extremely intimidating position of power over pharmacists. Our members’ concerns are justified, and the council’s motives are dubious. However, we can confirm that we will at all times protect our members’ right to freedom of speech as a fundamental human right and that members can reflect on the NHI according to their own conscience.”

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