Pharmacists raise alarm over amended Health bill clause

Albert Chavhunduka

The Community of Pharmacists Association (CPA) has raised the red flag over the interpretation of Clause 4 of the Health Services Amendment Bill (HB: 08 of 2021) especially on the meaning of the word “merit” which they said was being used to block other health professionals from the post of Secretary of the envisaged Health Services Board.

The bill was gazetted in 2021 and presented in the National Assembly to align the Health Service Act to the constitution and is currently being considered by the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

CPA argued that some Clauses in the Bill should be repealed as they perpetrate the unjust discrimination of other health care practitioners in favour of medical practitioners with regards to senior administrative posts.

In a letter written to the Clerk of Parliament, CPA Secretary Luckmore Bunu argued that Clause 2 of the amendment bill with regard to the appointment of the secretary of the commission, the word merit should not be viewed to mean a qualification as a medical practitioner.

 “There is no set process that must be applied in all circumstances. For the avoidance of doubt, merit based selection is based on the following, knowledge, skills, talent, ability, experience and competence,” said Bunu.

“In other words, merit is not based on qualification (as a medical practitioner). Any health care practitioner with these stated attributes can and should be considered for appointment as the Secretary of the Health Service Commission.”

CPA further submitted that Clause 4 of the Health Service amendment bill which requires the secretary of the Commission to be a qualified medical practitioner should be repealed as this disadvantages other health care practitioners.

“We would like to make the following changes to the appointment of secretary of the Commission. From our understanding of section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 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. This is an infringement on their right to non-discrimination,” CPA said.

“Section 194 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires one to be appointed (to any public office) based on merit and not qualification. Thus the requirement for one to be a medical practitioner is ultra vires section 194 (2) of the constitution.

The CPA further argued that this clause which discriminates against other medical health practitioners should be replaced by a more inclusive requirement.

“We as the CPA therefore submit that the term ‘qualified medical practitioner’ be removed and be replaced by the term, qualified health care practitioner and the section to read; In order for a person to be appointed as Secretary of the Commission, he or she shall be a qualified health care practitioner, who processes administrative qualities and at least seven years, whether continuous or otherwise of practising and registering as such.”

The association criticised the Ministry of Health for injustices with regards to the appointment of persons and posited that the Commission when put in place should address these biases.

“Further, there has been some injustices in the Ministry of Health with regards to appointment of persons to senior administrative positions that date back to pre-colonial era. The establishment of the Health Service Commission will be to fulfil both the spirit and letter of Section 233 (f) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which makes one of the objectives of the commission to ensure that injustices are remedied,” said CPA.

“As such, the commission will have to remedy the unjust discrimination of other health care practitioners (in favour of medical practitioners) in the ministry with regards to senior administrative posts which is the Secretary of the Commission in this instance. By amending Clause 4 of the bill (HB 08 of 2021) all pre-colonial era injustices would have been remedied.”

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