Submission on the Nursing Bill [B26 – 2005]
The AIDS Law Project (“the ALP”) welcomes, in principle, the move by the Department of Health (“the DOH”) to repeal the Nursing Act 50 of 1978. The memorandum on the objects of the Nursing Bill (“the Bill”) states that its primary purpose is to “transform the Nursing Council so as to increase the protection of the interests of the public” as well as to increase the accountability of the Nursing Council (“the SANC”). In addition, and as mandated by the Constitution, the memorandum states that a further objective is to increase access to health care services “in that the services will be provided in the spirit of protecting the health user’s right to dignity”. We support these objectives.
Unfortunately, the Bill does not do all that the memorandum claims it does. Instead of being accountable to the public, the SANC seems to be accountable to the Minister alone. We submit that, instead of making full use of the bodies set up by the National Health Act, 2003 (“the NHA”), the Bill creates direct lines of ministerial control. In order for the Bill to safeguard the public interest and ensure accountability of the SANC the SANC should have the power to carry out the broad policy objectives of the DOH. In order for the SANC to be truly accountable it should bear the responsibility of advising the Minister on key issues affecting the nursing profession, and the impact of these on the right of access to health care services. The Minister should therefore act in consultation with the SANC, and where appropriate on the recommendation of the SANC.
Further, the Bill deals with the SANC in a vacuum – that is, without due regard to the broader national legislative and policy framework, and without regard to the crisis of human resources in the health sector.
Finally, apart from being dislocated in this manner, the Bill contains provisions that directly undermine policies that seek to improve human resource capacity. The section below on “Critical issues raised by the Bill” refers to specific provisions that have this effect.
This submission therefore addresses the following broad areas:
- The context of the challenges of human resources that face the health sector
- Critical issues raised by the Bill:
- Key omissions in the Bill
- Provisions that affect human resources capacity
- The specific provisions of the Bill, under the following categories
- Introductory provisions
- The South African Nursing Council
- The regulation of the profession by the SANC.