A constitutional law expert, Kucaca Phulu, says the Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo breached the country’s Public Health Act, by failing to provide resources meant to beef up infectious diseases hospitals across the country.
The Public Health Act (Chapter 15:17) is administered by the Minister of Health of Child Care who is responsible for the health of the population by protecting, promoting, improving and maintaining public health.
According to the law, the health minister, must equitably prioritise and allocate resources to the country’s health services provided by the state.
Due to lack of adequate resources, the government has over time, not fully resourced the country’s hospitals nor properly remunerated health workers.
But Phulu, a Member of Parliament for Nkulumane Constituency, said failure to provide resources to infectious disease hospitals is a breach of the law.
Phulu’s remarks come on the backdrop of the fight against COVID-19 where he noted that the government was supposed to have reacted fast to contain and even blunt the impact of coronavirus as per Sections 66, 67 and 68 of the Public Health Act.
In an interview with CITE on the sidelines of a donation held at Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital Tuesday, Phulu said although it was good that both the public and private sector were scrambling to respond to the fight against COVID-19, the government had been slow to act on making sure infectious diseases hospitals in the country were well equipped.
“We are at Thorngrove, we are seeing the rehabilitation of the road and renovations due to COVID-19 and that pleases us because this is a good development. Anyone will be pleased to see the work being done here but we must take cognisance of this fact – if you go to the Public Health Act, the minister of health must make sure each local authority has an infectious diseases hospital,” he said.
“It’s a requirement in terms of the Public Health Act and that is why Bulawayo has Thorngrove, Harare has Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital and so forth.”
But, the law expert lamented that the minister has not been allocating funds to the hospitals.
“It’s a requirement that the minister provides these local authorities with funds but for all these years they have not been doing so, this is why we are finding ourselves in this a situation,” said Phulu, who is also the MDC Secretary for Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.
He highlighted that lack of such action by the state was “a consistent and repeated breach of the Public Health Act, so when this fight against COVID is over we must make sure they continue assisting and making sure these hospitals are running and functioning.”
“It’s dangerous to stay without an infectious diseases hospital that is not up to scratch. This must be a lesson to us,” Phulu said.
Institutions such as Thorngrove are ideal facilities especially in the emergence of COVID-19, as these are hospitals where patients are quarantined and treated to avoid spreading the disease to others.
However, worldwide, health experts said over the years, countries either destroyed or revamped their infectious hospitals as they moved to cater for other conditions such as non-communicable diseases.