Debbie Pearmain

Health Legislative update

Latest Developments: The Draft Bill is at this stage still with the State Law Advisors. A meeting between the State Law Advisors and the Department was held during the week of 10 February 2003 during which issues affecting the Bill were discussed. The dialogue, which focuses on the structuring of the Bill, is ongoing and aims to ensure its constitutionality. At this stage, it is difficult for the Department to say when it will be tabled, since this depends on whether the State Law Advisors are satisfied with its constitutionality. Background: The Draft National Health Bill will repeal the 1977 National Health Act and create a new regulatory framework for the national health system. The Draft Bill also sets out the rights and obligations of both users and health care providers. The re-drafting of the Health Act provides an opportunity for the gains that have been made in health care services since 1994 to be entrenched into national legislation. For more information contact Debbie Pearmain at 012 312 0611 Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill Latest Developments: The Bill was signed by the President in December 2002. It is expected to come into operation in April 2003. Background: The Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill (B40-2002) was introduced by the Minister of Health on 21 August 2002, published in Government Gazette No 23684 of 29 July 2002 , and classified by the Joint Tagging Mechanism as a section 75 Bill (ordinary bills not affecting the provinces). This bill amends a 37-year-old act controlling, among other things, the dispensing and manufacture of medicines in South Africa. For more information contact H.Z. Zokufa at 012 312 0355 Provision of anti-retroviral drugs in public hospitals Latest Developments: The cabinet has approved a plan to provide anti-retroviral triple therapy at six government hospitals, in a further indication of an Aids policy turn-around. It has been confirmed that money for the programme, which has been drafted by some of South Africa's leading Aids experts, will come from the William J Clinton Presidential Foundation in New York. The foundation will donate $35-million (about R290-million) for the life-extending anti-retroviral drugs, which will be provided to 2 100 people. This makes it one of the largest donations to South Africa for the provision of triple therapy, along with money from a donation from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Part of a Global Fund donation of $72-million (R600-million) to KwaZulu-Natal is intended to start a limited programme to provide anti-retrovirals to HIV patients in that province. The Clinton Foundation money will be deployed at Mariannhill Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg Hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Masiphumelele Clinic in Fish Hoek, Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, and one clinic in the Eastern Cape. The programme is one of several that are making expensive anti-Aids drugs available to South Africans who cannot afford them. In Khayelitsha, Medecins Sans Frontieres provides triple therapy to nearly 350 needy patients. Dozens of other people are accessing treatment by participating in clinical trials. But this is not nearly enough to help the estimated 200 000 South Africans who are expected to suffer Aids-related deaths this year. The cheapest triple therapy currently available costs about R900 a month. But despite the hefty price tag, epidemiologists and health economists have worked out that providing anti-retrovirals would save the government money by cutting back on the expense of hospitalising Aids patients. According to the department of health, patients suffering from Aids-related illnesses comprised a quarter of hospital admissions in 2000. The department estimated that their hospitalisation would use up 12,5 percent of the total health budget in 2001. Thousands of Aids activists, trade unionists, religious leaders and members of the public marched on Parliament at its opening on 14 February 2003 in a bid to urge the government to implement a national Aids treatment plan by the end of February. Before proceeding to Parliament, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), organisers of the Stand up for our Lives march, handed over a memorandum to the United States Consulate General, asking the US government to allow poor countries to import generic medicines. It was widely expected that the TAC would announce plans for a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. The campaign would begin in March, but according to the TAC it would only proceed should the government fail to implement - by the end of February - a national Aids prevention and treatment plan that includes antiretroviral therapy (ART). The plan would also have to include a commitment by the government to produce generic Aids drugs, the TAC said. Background: Cabinet is studying the possibility of providing anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) in the public health sector as a means of improving the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS. A bilateral technical task team of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Treasury is working on cost implications of an expanding response to the impact of HIV/AIDS on all sectors of society. For more information contact Joanne Collinge at 012 312 0713 (Source: Contract Trust http://www.contacttrust.org.za)