The DA unequivocally rejects the draft regulations to the National Health Act as published last week in the government gazette. This set of regulations, if passed, has the potential to gravely transgress the rights of patients. Essentially, it is the ANC government’s way of clinging to power by extending the State of Disaster permanently through legislation.

The regulations, which are currently open to public participation, seek to not only regulate when a person has contracted a notifiable medical condition, they also regulate persons who are suspected to have contracted said conditions from a list of conditions. Worryingly, the regulations pave the way for patients to be forced to submit to medical examination, which may include providing any bodily sample. These patients – or suspected patients – may also be forced into a quarantine facility or isolation site and be forced to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine.

These regulations also attempt to give more powers to medical practitioners (or such person authorised to act as one) to provide instruction or direction in this regard.

This is especially worrying given that there are many qualified doctors and nurses in South Africa yet the ANC government is quick to disregard them and import medical practitioners from other countries who may not have the necessary qualifications that are on par with the standard South African regulatory codes.

There are also questions that pose a practical nightmare for local governments. The regulations enforce that quarantine facilities should be determined collectively and managed by the Department of Health, provincial departments of Health, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and municipalities. With the shortage in nursing staff and ill-equipped facilities in a number of provinces, the DA cannot see how any patient would be accommodated in adequate medical quarantine or isolation facilities.

Patients, or those suspected to have been in contact with someone carrying said condition, may only self-isolate if they do so in a facility that complies with criteria, have support of a friend or family member that may drop off food or medicine (alternatively make use of online shopping), have access to the internet and a phone for daily reporting of symptoms and have access to a private physician. It is therefore evident that self-isolation or self-quarantine, under these draft regulations, are to become a costly exercise which places a further burden on especially the poor and vulnerable in society. It is clear that patients are being coerced into submitting to government control in these facilities.

Furthermore, these regulations are not aligned to those of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is not to say that Covid-19 has become endemic to society and the WHO has not declared the pandemic as such. There is thus no need for permanent regulations and it only proves that the government wants to effectively extend the State of Disaster or exercise more control over citizens.

Based on the current state of our public healthcare, it is especially worrisome that the state wants to enforce these regulations – not only with confirmed cases, but also suspected cases of the particular medical condition. We therefore urge the public to participate in this process and object to this flagrant attempt of state control.

The DA will also write to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on health for this matter to be addressed through the relevant channels in Parliament. The Minister will account to the DA and to Parliament for this draft regulations. As a party that believes in the Rule of Law, we will fight any attempt to effectively extend the State of Disaster as well as the limiting of the rights of patients.

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Michele Clarke MP

Michele Clarke MP is the Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Health.

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