Civil societies have urgently called on government for proper consideration of public comments on the NHI Bill which is expected to be presented to Cabinet today (27 November).
In a joint statement the Treatment Action Campaign, SECTION27, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) and the People’s Health Movement (PHM) express serious concerns that the Bill will be rushed through the legislative process following its hasty presentation to Cabinet.
They pointed out that several requests for an extension of the three-month comment period that started after the draft Bill’s release in June to allow for proper consultation were ignored as well as further requests by SECTION27 for transparency about the number and type of comments made. ignored.
“Just two weeks after the final date for submissions (21 September 2018), a version of the Bill amended by presidential advisor Dr Olive Shisana without the knowledge of the Director General of Health and without consultation with the Minister of Finance was leaked, together with a letter from Treasury complaining about this change in direction. This version, prepared so soon after the submission deadline, cannot have taken into account the likely hundreds of submissions made by interested parties across the country. It was also, interestingly, prepared before the Presidential Health Summit of 19 and 20 October 2018, at which delegates made clear the need to focus on system improvement aimed at fixing the crisis in public health rather than on legislation.
“Now we understand that the Bill will be presented to Cabinet today for approval – the final step before it is presented to the legislature. The legislative development process has been removed from the office of the Director General, who bravely spoke out last week about being side-lined by the presidency and her subordinates. We also understand that the Bill has not been discussed in the National Health Council – the body established by section 23 of the National Health Act 61 of 2003 to advise the Minister of Health on policy and on proposed health legislation (before it is introduced to the legislature),” the organisations noted.
They accuse government of not taking into account the comments made over the past either between the Green and White Papers and the Bill or after the draft Bill was published for public comment.
“This makes a mockery of public consultation as required by the Constitution and opens the Bill up to future attack and delay on these grounds. Pro-poor civil society organisations and healthcare professionals have consistently argued that government needs to focus on fixing the crises in private and public health rather than on hastily passing legislation that, in its current state, takes the country in the wrong direction.”
They call on Cabinet to send the NHI Bill back to the Department of Health and to request a proper and thorough consultation process and consideration of options available for improvement of access to and quality of health care services in the country.