Withdraw the Health Services Amendment Bill, Parly urges govt

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care has urged the government to withdraw the controversial Health Services Amendment Bill, following its rejection by stakeholders, and carry out an exhaustive consultation process before bringing the proposed legislation back to Parliament.

The Bill which seeks to replace the Health Services Board with a Health Services Commission prohibits health workers from embarking on industrial action,

Presenting the first report of the committee on the evidence gathered during the public hearings on the Bill Tuesday, Bulawayo proportional representation legislator, Jasmine Toffa, said health practitioners and other stakeholders consulted described it as punitive and taking away their right to strike without any compensation and among other things.

“Given the overwhelming rejection of the Bill by the interested and affected stakeholders, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) should withdraw the

Bill and conduct a thorough consultation process with all the interested and affected stakeholders in order to redraft the Bill,” said Toffa.

“The Committee is of the opinion that a good law must serve the interest of the people and it must be reasonable, it should not be too harsh or rigid. Thus, the Health Services Amendment Bill should be recrafted in such a way that it protects the health workers, boost their morale at work by creating good platforms for negotiations and cordial work relations between the employee and the employer as well as creating an enabling environment for quality health care services in the country.”

Toffa noted that as a committee they observed that Clause 3 of the Bill was silent on the critical skills that those appointed to be members of the Health Services Commission should have for example, a legal person.

“The Committee noted that there seemed to have been little or no consultation done by the MoHCC in the drafting of the Bill as most of the provisions of the Bill were rejected by the interested and affected stakeholders, especially the health workers during the public hearings due to its seemingly punitive nature towards job action by the health workers,” she said.

Among other recommendations, Toffa said the committee recommended that Clause 3 should clearly stipulate the critical skills that those appointed to be the members of the Commission should have.

Mbizo legislator said the contents of the Bill were opposed to what it seeks to achieve.

“It takes away the right to strike yet the Constitution promotes the right to strike.” He said.

“It takes away the right to trade unionism yet the Constitution allows for the establishment of trade unions. It takes away the right for one to join a particular organisation of their choice with regards to collective labour organisations and yet the Constitution provides for that.

He added: “So I would first of all immediately want to agree with the last recommendation and observation by the Committee that this Bill should be withdrawn. It has no place finding itself under debate in this Parliament.”

MDC-T proportional representation MP, Paurina Mpariwa said the Bill violates the Labour Act through the back door.

“The Bill does not seek to address the root cause of the problems in our government’s health institutions but it merely seeks to clamp down on health professionals who will then simply be forced to migrate either into the private profession or out of the country,” said Bulawayo Central MP, Nicola Watson.

“It will increase the problems in public health institutions, not decrease them because it does not seek to solve the root cause of the problems in public health institutions in Zimbabwe.”

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