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Residents protest against the new health bill.

The following article was published in the Cape Times and it was written by: Dominic Adriaanse

CONCERNED residents marched to the legislature yesterday, protesting a new Bill which they say will no longer recognise community health committees.

Kathryn Stinson PHM-SA Chair, addressing marchers during the March against the Western Cape Health Facilities Board and Committees Bill, 2015

Kathryn Stinson PHM-SA Chair, addressing marchers during the March against the Western Cape Health Facilities Board and Committees Bill, 2015

Members of community health forums, the People’s Health Movement South Africa and the Cape Metro Health Forum participated in the march.

The People’s Health Movement South Africa’s chairperson *Damaris Kiewiets said an “undemocratic process” was followed in drawing up the Bill.

Under the Bill, current health forums – some which have been in existence for 20 years – are no longer recognised by the province.

Kiewiets said communities wanted the provincial government to recognise existing clinic, sub-district and Cape Metro committees.

The Bill allows the MEC to elect or nominate clinic committees with no participation from current structures or communities, said Kiewiets.

There was a concern that should new members be appointed, they would not know much about the respective communities and their healthcare issues.

Kiewiets said this would “undermine the unique representation that each committee currently has, and might ultimately work against strengthening the health system through community participation”.

Kiewiets said current challenges faced at facilities – by communities and staff – could be eliminated if a “true partnerships and constructive engagement took place”.

Tinashe Njanji said protesters were voicing their concerns with regards to the Bill, as health committees are “the bridges between health facilities and the community”. The issues also stem from the closure of the GF Jooste Hospital in 2014.

“While the Mitchells Plain Hospital is there, it is intended for those in surrounding areas. Its opening and GF Jooste’s closure have not solved anything.”

The process of a new health facility is an on-going saga.

Spokesperson for Health MEC Colleen Smart, said the issues raised by the forum were addressed by Mbombo at a meeting earlier this year.

“The Standing Committee will consider convening public hearings. The legislature will then consider all comments, make any relevant amendments and there will be a second reading of the bill in the legislature, after which it would be referred to the premier for assent,” said Smart.

The Bill was meant to be published for public comment by the provincial legislature early next year.

*Damaris Kiewiets is the chair of Cape Metro Health Forum not the People’s Health Movement South Africa*