Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Health Services Amendment Bill, which will outlaw industrial action by health workers lasting more than three days and upgrade the Health Services Board to a Commission is now before Parliament.
With the proposed law, health workers will no longer be allowed to embark on a job action for more than three days.
The Bill also proposes to change the name of the Board to the Health Service Commission, a development that is expected to enhance the esteem in which the Board and its members are held and giving the health sector obvious equality with the general Civil Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission.
The Bill is now before Parliamentary Legal Committee to establish if its provisions are consistent with the Constitution.
Clause Five of the Bill said health services shall be deemed an essential service as referred to in the Constitution.
“No collective job action whether lawful or unlawful shall continue for an uninterrupted period of 72 hours or for more than 72 hours in any given 14-day period, and notice of any collective job action must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the commencement of such collective job action,” reads the Clause.
“Any individual who is a member of the governing body of any trade union or representative body of members of the Health Service which incites or organises any job collective action . . . shall be guilty of any an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Clause Three of the Bill will alter the membership of the Commission, so that it will have a maximum of seven and a minimum of four members.
Its chairperson will be the chairperson of the Public Service Commission and the rest will be appointed by the President upon recommendation from the responsible minister.
“Members of the Commission . . . must be chosen for their knowledge and experience in the Health Service delivery or administration, human resources, legal and financial accounting expertise,” reads clause three of the Bill.
Clause four of the Bill will put the staff under the control of the Secretary to the Commission, who will not be a member of the new Commission but will sit in on its meetings.
This secretary, like the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, will have to be a registered medical practitioner.
The Bill will amend the Health Service Act in order to require hospital management boards to get the Commission’s approval for the appointment of staff, and require the minister to act “in consultation with the Commission” when establishing management boards for Government hospitals.