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HomeMedico-LegalEFF's Bill 'undesirable' says Health portfolio committee

EFF's Bill 'undesirable' says Health portfolio committee

A Bill seeking to amend the 2003 National Health Act to provide for state-funded clinics to operate ‘24 hours a day and seven days a week’ has been declared ‘undesirable’. Prepared on behalf of the Economic Freedom Front's (EFF’s) Suzan Thembekwayo, it was tabled in 2018.

The National Assembly Health Committee said:

The Portfolio Committee on Health unanimously agreed that it cannot support the National Health Amendment Bill, a private Member’s Bill sponsored by Dr Suzan Thembekwayo from the Economic Freedom Front (EFF).

The committee said it commends and expresses its gratitude to Dr Thembekwayo for the submission of the Bill. However, Members of the committee were of the view that in the current situation the Bill is undesirable.

The committee is of the opinion that there are primary healthcare facilities that are already operating for 24 hours and that are not legislated for. Furthermore, the committee is currently busy with the processing of the National Health Insurance Bill, which might also have an impact on the proposed legislation. Of concern to the committee, is that the country is currently under financial stress and therefore the department would struggle to adjust the current budget against the health requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bill seeks to amend the National Health Act, 2003 (Act No.61 of 2003), in order to provide that clinics in the public sector must operate and provide healthcare services 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The committee observed and noted the following in relation to the proposed amendments as contained in the Bill, as presented by the department:

There are financial implications to this proposed Bill and the government’s budget cycle determines the strategic objectives and the annual performance plan to achieve the goals of the government of the day.

The Bill in its current form will have massive financial implications for the Department of Health and the Ministry, and the quantification of costs must be done before the Bill could be considered.

The department has a commitment to ensure that all primary healthcare facilities operate for 24 hours and this is being achieved through progressive means as and when the resources become available.

The proposed legislation would likely not be the most appropriate vehicle to ensure that primary healthcare facilities operate for 24 hours, as there were facilities that were operating for 24 hours already.

There is a need for comprehensive data on the factors informing the operation of 24-hour facilities, such as human and other resources and funding for expanded services.


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