Experts call for changes to draft health law

August 30, 2012 2:58 pm
Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA) said the draft health Bill by the ministries of health should be reviewed to address all the critical issues

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – A non-governmental organisation has called for the revision of a draft health Bill that proposes radical changes in the health sector.

Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA) said the draft health Bill by the ministries of health should be reviewed to address all the critical issues before it’s submitted to the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution.

RHRA Focal Person Carol Odula accused the ministries of health of failing to incorporate recommendations of the civil society organisations as well as other key stakeholders.

“It (draft health bill) has gone off tangent. Some of the language is ambiguous,” Odula protested.

“I was not in the group of people who were invited to participate in the drafting but we were made to understand that those who raised objections were omitted from further discussions,” she added.

Jeremiah Maina of the National Nurses Association of Kenya said the Bill which proposes the formulation of institutions like the health council, the health services authority, public health facilities service, a procurement body and a council of health professions was more of a barrier to provision of health care.

“It does not also recognise that we had the Members of Parliament interrogating after the doctors strike (in December) and we had the recommendation of a health service commission to be established, so basically it does not even recognise the spirit of the stakeholders,” Maina stated adding that the draft Bill did not indicate how it would relate to the national and county governments, as the country moves towards devolution.

“There is need for consultation of how to revamp the health sector and it needs to be open and discussed by various stakeholders,” he said.

RHRA also expressed opposition to the inclusion of the controversial subject of abortion in the draft health bill saying it was at odds with the objectives and purpose of the bill.

The objectives of the Bill, Odula said, were to consolidate the law relating to health, to provide for regulation of health care services and health care service providers, to provide for establishment of national regulatory institutions, to coordinate the interrelationship between the national and county health institutions, to establish a coordinating agency of professionals within the health industry and to provide for attainment of the basic right to health.

“As such, language in the Bill referring to a specific medical procedure is out of place and not in keeping with the broader, structural goals of the bill. Abortion is being singled out, no other medical procedure or reproductive health-related service or disease is specifically mentioned in this bill,” Odula dissented.

She maintained that termination of pregnancy was best handled in separate legislation or guidelines since abortion was a complex medical issue that required its own dedicated legislation and regulation.

Odula said the Section Six of the draft health bill concerning reproductive health should instead simply and broadly affirm the right to reproductive health including reproductive healthcare services and ensure the respect, protection and promotion of this right by placing obligations on the government to ensure reproductive health services were widely accessible, available, acceptable and of sufficient quality.

“This article should leave discussion of specific medical procedures, including abortion, to separate, more focused legislation and regulation as is done in the HIV and AIDS Control Act and the Mental Health Act, for example,” she stated.

The alliance also wants a clause in the draft health bill requiring medical professionals to have a valid license from recognised regulatory authorities to carry out an abortion deleted.

“This is highly problematic and unusual as no other medical procedure in the country requires separate licensing and this will deny women access to emergency abortion services,” Odula said.

“The current provisions on abortion in the Health bill reflect a clear intent to restrict access to abortion services, rather than to create an enabling environment for access to services under the law, as required by the Constitution under Article 26(4),” the medic said.

Article 26(4) of the Constitution states that “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”


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