The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) yesterday launched an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court against Mpumalanga Health MEC Sibongile Manana and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, in an attempt to use the courts to force Manana to widen access to the anti-HIV drug nevirapine in Mpumalanga.
The AIDS activists allege that Manana failed to comply with the July Constitutional Court judgment ordering the provinces to scale up provision of nevirapine in public clinics and hospitals.
Nevirapine reduces the likelihood of an HIV-positive pregnant woman passing the virus on to her unborn child.
We hope this will make it clear to other provinces that haven't complied fully that if they don't get their house in order they will face court proceedings, said TAC attorney Geoff Budlender. He said that only KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and North West had demonstrated that they were complying with the Constitutional Court order.
In papers filed yesterday in the Pretoria High Court, the TAC argues that Manana has breached the Constitutional Court judgment on three counts.
According to the TAC, she had failed to provide full information on Mpumalanga's nevirapine programmes as requested by the organisation on behalf of users of the public health care system; she was still requiring hospitals and clinics to obtain permission from the provincial health department to provide nevirapine, despite the Constitutional Court declaring that such decisions lay in the hands of the medical personnel working in the facilities; and finally the provincial health department had failed to expand the provision of nevirapine beyond its two pilot sites, comprised of two public hospitals and 12 clinics, despite having the resources to do so.
Budlender said the TAC's application to the Pretoria High Court sought an order compelling Manana to provide the information, which would also be used to support a further application for a contempt of court order against her.
Tshabalala-Msimang was joined as a party to the case, he said, because as the health minister she had a constitutional duty to ensure the provinces carried out their duties.
We say she hasn't done enough. She can make formal demands on them, she can sue them herself, and in extreme cases she can take over their functions. She will have to state (in court) what she has done, said Budlender.
Spokeswoman for the health department Jo-Anne Collinge said as the health minister was at the African National Congress national conference she had not yet had access to the court documents, and therefore could not indicate what her response was likely to be.(Source: Business Day , Dec 18 2002)