THE Community Pharmacists Association of Zimbabwe has petitioned parliament against the Health Services Amendment Bill, which they describe as “discriminatory”.
The Bill intends to align the Health Service Act to the Constitution by turning the Health Services Board (HSB) into a commission.
The HSB administers health service provision and conditions of service of its members.
In a letter dated November 12, 2021 addressed to the clerk of parliament Kennedy Chokuda, secretary of the Community Pharmacists Association of Zimbabwe Luckmore Bunu said some provisions of the Bill must be repealed.
Section 10 (2) of the Amendment Bill is among the contested sections. It says: “In order for a person to be appointed as secretary of the commission, he or she shall be a qualified medical practitioner, who possesses administrative qualities and has at least seven years, whether continuous or otherwise, of practising and registering as such”.
It says the secretary will be responsible for the administration of the Commission.
Bunu said his constituency was unhappy.
“(The requirement to be) a qualified medical practitioner in order to be appointed secretary of the commission is ultra vires Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment number 20 of 2013,” Bunu said.
The section promotes equality in various sectors.
“Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner,” he said.
“From our understanding of Section 56 of the Constitution, a qualified medical practitioner is directly accorded a privilege and or an advantage to the post of secretary of the Commission, which privilege other suitably qualified persons who are not qualified medical practitioners are not accorded,” the petition said.
“This is an infringement on their right to non-discrimination. We, therefore, pray that the term, ‘qualified medical practitioner’ be removed and be replaced by the term, ‘qualified healthcare practitioner’.”
This is expected to open up the opportunity to other qualified health personnel such as pharmacists to qualify.
Parliament is expected to table a response to this petition together with other issues raised by various stakeholders in relation to the amendment Bill.
Analyst Jethro Makumbe described the Bill as violating fundamental labour laws.
“While the health service is fundamentally important in any society, some of the amendments made to the Bill stifle engagement between health service providers and government. It outlaws options that health personnel might want to employ to engage with the employer,” he said.
Makumbe was making reference to Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill which provide that: “Notwithstanding anything in the Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] — (a) the Health Service shall be deemed as an essential service referred to in section 65(3) of the Constitution…
“And (b) no collective job action whether lawful or unlawful shall continue for an uninterrupted period of 72 hours or for more than 72 hours in any given 14-day period; and (c) notice of any collective job action must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the commencement of such collective job action.”