Saturday, December 3, 2022

Health law encounters opposition in Parliament

Opposition legislators have proposed that the draft Public Health Bill be scrapped and a more inclusive law be drafted.

Members of Parliament said there has been no consultation with stakeholders prior to the formulation of the law.

Such stakeholders, MPs said included organizations like the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS.

The proposed law intends to give medical practitioners the leeway to test patients for HIV/AIDS without patients’ consent.

Leading the tirade of voices against the Bill this week was immediate past leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando, who proposed that the Bill be taken to the drawing board for consultation.

Saleshando said it was disturbing that the views of the parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDS as well as the committee on Health and Wellness have not been solicited.

“The parliamentary committees must be given an opportunity to debate on the merits of the Bill,” said Saleshando.

He also complained that the formulation of the Bill was grossly insensitive to the human rights consideration. He attributed this anomaly to failure to seek the view of the National AIDS Council.

He accused government of seeking to pass ram the law through parliament instead of first consulting adequately to ensure that the views of Members of Parliament are taken into account.

Also rejecting the Bill was Member of Parliament for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi, who argued that the Bill is draconian in that it vests all power on the Minister of Health.

Mmolotsi said that with centralized power the system could be easily abused. He opined that it would not be surprising to see the minister’s friends, and other ruling party elites being appointed to sit on the National Health Council as well as the various primary Health Care Coordinating Committees.

“This kind of centralization of power should not be accepted and it is not beneficial to the public…,” stated Mmolotsi.

Mmolotsi also queried the consultation process adding that it was clear that government had merely imposed its ideas.

He said that the mere fact that key stakeholders such as BONELA and parliamentary committees had misgivings about the Bill said a lot about the consultation process.

“Key stakeholders were not consulted and these include Members of Parliament,” asserted Mmolotsi.
“The Bill ought to respect people’s wishes for HIV/AIDS testing to be voluntary as well as respect people’s right to privacy,” said Mmolotsi.

“You are taking all our rights and giving them to doctors…ultimately with this type of laws we will get to a point where we have no rights,” he added.

The MP warned that it was highly likely that Batswana will be denied a right to health because they had refused to undertake an HIV/AIDS test.

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