Ministry of Health conducts stakeholder consultations on the alignment of the Health Services Act

Harare – The Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in partnership with the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Alignment of Legislation (IMT) and with support from the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR), held stakeholder consultations on the Health Services Act covering the Northern and Southern parts of Zimbabwe.

Stakeholders gathered on the 22nd and 23rd of March 2017 at Holiday Inn, Harare from the Northern provinces and districts of Zimbabwe to give valuable input for the alignment of the Health Services Act to the supreme law of the land (Constitution).

In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Rtd Brig Gen Gerald Gwinji highlighted the importance of involving citizens in the law making process, particularly health workers in this instance since they were the backbone of Zimbabwe’s health system. He outlined the background of the Commission of Inquiry to Review the Health Sector, which was commissioned in 1997 by His Excellency the President, and led to the recommendation to create the Health Service Commission.

During the workshop, it was noted with concern, that there was a pressing need for clarity on the status of the Health Service Board as a de facto but not de jure Commission, as well as governance issues emanating from its current composition. Emotions sometimes ran high as stakeholders aired their views and opinions on other aspects such as the operations of hospital management boards, conditions of service and labour rights.

In Bulawayo, diverse stakeholders from the Southern parts of Zimbabwe also gave recommendations on how to align the provisions in the Health Services Act with the 2013 Constitution. The workshop was hosted at the Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel on 3 & 4 May 2017.

Dr. Hove, the Director of Pathology in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, pointed out that health workers provide what is deemed to be an essential service to the nation and so they were usually not allowed to embark on industrial action, yet the Constitution granted them various freedoms including freedom of association. Stakeholders also raised questions on the need for the Act to clarify who can be classified as an essential service employee.

They called for the need for the Health Service Act to include provisions that protect workers from unfair labour practices, emphasizing that since the law did not allow them to go on strike against unfavourable employer practices, their employer must make every effort to improve their salaries and working conditions. This would in turn reduce the number of grievances that give rise to such collective action. In turn, officials from the health sector reminded health workers to prioritize and value the preservation of human life over money, and to treat their work as a calling.

After some vibrant group discussions, both workshops ended on a high note, with stakeholders expressing their satisfaction with the consultative process and with the Ministry’s efforts to include them in the process and to obtain their views.