September 10, 2004

Bill recognises traditional healers

Health Minister Manto Tshabala-Msimang has announced that the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill which was passed would affirm the dignity and respect of this section of the health sector. The minister said a lack of regulation and development had had a negative impact on traditional health practitioners and their patients. According to her, the Bill sought to recognise the uniqueness, set professional, ethical norms and standards and empower traditional health practitioners to regulate themselves as professionals.
About 200.000 traditional health practitioners were set to benefit from the legislation. As the minister put it, formal legal recognition of the practice of traditional medicine had a number of benefits for practitioners and their patients. In terms of the Medical Schemes Act, she said schemes could only pay for health services rendered by a registered health practitioner. Once the Bill was passed, traditional health practitioners would become registered in terms of the law. "Another advantage is that genuine practitioners can be distinguished from the charlatans," she said, adding that only those who were properly skilled would be able to practice.
As Tshabala-Msimang further noticed, her department would develop regulations in collaboration with traditional health practitioners through the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners' Council. The Council would seek to regulate four kinds of practitioners such as diviners (sangoma), herbalists (izinyanga), traditional birth attendants and traditional surgeons (ingcibi). Those interested in practicing traditional medicine would have to be registered with the Council. The minister said the majority of traditional health practitioners who were consulted during the development of this Bill were eager to be regulated and recognized by government. The Bill would be referred to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. (Bua News, Pretoria)

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