Comments on the National Health Bill

Bearing in mind that this Bill recognizes the past injustices and inequities of health services in our country and there is a need to grant all South Africans their fundamental rights and have it made broadly known, we make our representation.

In order to make those rights a reality in society, the society needs to be educated. By doing so, it will empower the people to be able to think for themselves and to decide what is the best health care option available to them. However, the education process can take a while and one needs to consider bridging that gap to empower the people in society.

The effectiveness in achieving the objective in section 2(b) of the Bill with regards to users depends on the level of awareness, knowledge and understanding that can be instilled in users.

Clear crisp communication must be present to educate users on their rights and duties and on the rights and duties of health care providers in relation to the user.

The sentiments of this Health Bill are clear and direct. It aims to achieve delivery and instill ethics and fairness in the health sector which is vital for the well being of the people of the nation.

For those who are literate and have had access to this Bill and read it, it has empowered them. It has made it possible for them to exercise their rights in the area of health care. One will then know what to ask should there be any form of injustices committed on them.

In order to bring about understanding within the user so he can exercise his fundamental rights in health care, we propose the following amendments:

Comments on Section 6

Section 6 of the Bill grants users their right to have full knowledge. However what happens when a user is not in a position to understand what is being communicated to them by the health care provider?.

Therefore we propose the following amendment to Section 6 of the Bill

The phrase"6. Every health care provider must inform a user of "should be replaced by"6. Every health care provider must inform a user or his or her agent of "

The reasoning is that we in South Africa have users who do not understand the language and terminology used by health care providers.

This will allow the user to come in with interpreters, a helper or any organization or agent who can understand the language so that the:

a) Diagnosis is understood

b) The risks are computed

c) The benefits of other options are weighed and the correct choice made

The above will allow the family friend, priest, helper, agent, etc. to be of assistance to the user so that the user does not have misunderstanding due to the possibility of the users inability to understand what was said or conveyed by the health provider. By doing so, the user will be able to make an informed choice before consenting to any available treatment as covered on the issue of "informed consent of the user" in this Bill.

Comments on Section 12

Section 12 addresses only the public health sectors duty to disseminate information. It however does not address the duty of all health care providers and health establishments to disseminate information to users under their care. Section 12 makes no reference to dissemination of information regarding the rights and duties of users.

Therefore we propose the following amendment to Section 12 of the Bill:

It should read as follows:

12. The national department and every provincial department, district health council and municipality must ensure that adequate and comprehensive information is disseminated on the health services for which they are responsible which must include -

"(g) the rights and duties of

- the user

- the health care provider as per the sections of Chapter 2 of this Bill

12 (g) is applicable to all health care providers and health establishments."

Empowerment is achieved by entrenching rights and by educating on those rights.

Health Care Providers in the South African context have their respective associations and committees that are primarily there to protect their interests and inform them of the latest developments that will affect them.

Health Care Providers have the channels set up for their communication and education that empowers them.

Users however lack such channels of communication and education.

So how are users going to be educated on their rights and duties as provided for in this Bill?

Therefore make all Health Care Providers role players in the process of educating users on their rights and duties as tabled in this Bill.

In conclusion

We are of the view that this bill propagates Governments commitment to addressing imbalances of the past with regard to Health Care for our people. It must however provide for education of the user to achieve its purposes.