‘Health sector does not need a new law’

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Picture: UKZN School of Law

BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI
THE Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) says the health sector in the country does not need new laws because it is already over-regulated.

In its statement last week on the proposed Health Services Amendment Bill, which seeks to align the Health Services Act to the Constitution, Zimcodd said the intention of the amendments were problematic as they sought to further oppress health workers.

The Bill has provisions that will bar health workers from speaking out or engaging in job action.

Clause 5 of the Bill seeks to pronounce the health sector as an essential service and bar nurses and doctors from engaging on prolonged strikes.

“The health sector is not in need of an amendment Bill as there are numerous policies and legislative frameworks that are already in place. There is no commitment by the government to address the legitimate concerns of health service professionals,” the Zimcodd statement read.

“The intention of the Bill is problematic because it is undemocratic with respect to the right to strike of health employees, but it is also happening in a context where the accumulation of strikes and poor service delivery has had a negative impact on the lives of patients,” the organisation said.

Describing the proposed law as being blind in terms of addressing socio-economic justice issues and addressing challenges faced by the health sector, Zimcodd dismissed the law, adding that it did not bring anything positive in improving the workers’ remuneration and the availability of medicines, revamping dilapidated infrastructure and addressing the brain drain in the health sector.

Although health professionals fall under the category of “essential services”, Zimcodd said the Health ministry should ensure that the right of employees to strike is protected and promoted while safeguarding the right to life.

“Rather than having a sector-specific commission that focuses on health, the government should make use of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum strengthened to reinvigorate the social contract to institutionalise and improve social dialogue in the health sector,” Zimcodd added.

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