By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:
“The government is accountable to the people. Its purpose is to enable the South African people to use their freedoms. It has no power except that which is assigned to it by the people and the Constitution. The government must reflect the will of the people and our elected representatives must be directly accountable to the people. Those to whom we entrust our nation’s highest offices have a sacred duty to live up to that trust; Government must always act honestly, transparently and in the best interests of all South Africans.”
So says the DA’s values charter.
On July 30th, in this House, Health MEC Dhlomo told us during an executive statement that Section 21 would be used to address the shortage of several critical medicines in KZN. This option is retained in the bill before us, from previous legislation.
Two months later and we have no update, nor has the problem of shortages been fixed.
To illustrate, MEC Dhlomo said that the supply of Abacavir – used to treat HIV/ AIDS in children – would be normalised by the end of July. It is now the beginning of October and still it is not available in hospitals and clinics.
This is over and above the MEC’s earlier claim that the drug was never unavailable and had merely been in short supply for only two weeks. Yet the DA knows of facilities that are today still resorting to grinding adult tablets to make into a syrup for our children. The MEC’s actions are entirely devious and smack of a cover up.
While we have and will enact legislation to ensure quality delivery of healthcare, political lethargy and fatigued leaders continue to make false promises. The DA questions their handlers and asks why they are still in their posts.
Government has a responsibility to ensure that it protects citizens from unsafe medicines. It has a duty to safeguard South Africans from being duped or harmed by fake or unproven medical devices and tests.
The bill before us not only addresses this, it makes provision for a superior regulatory authority that will hopefully function better, faster and more constructively, to deliver the best possible quality and safety for all of us than the existing system.
The bill includes in its scope not only medicines, but all devices or machines and In Vitro Testing Devices referred to as IVD’s. The DA welcomes this.
Initial concerns about whether this bill will pass constitutional muster in now non-existent.
There should be no limitation in doing lawful business and creating jobs when unemployment is so high. Public safety, particularly when it comes to healthcare which often involves life and death, requires such safety to be prioritised. There is nothing stopping industry from doing business within the ambit of any statute with this core.
While businesses potentially affected by the amendments are, and will for a while remain unhappy, in the DA’s view this side effect is not intentionally cold-blooded but cautiously acceptable in the interest of public safety.
The bill has received support from the Western Cape Parliament. The DA in KZN agrees and lends our support as well. As our health policy states – “The DA will act to move public health to focus on wellness for all.”