The inauguration of the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council today is a historic occasion and a significant milestone towards integrating African Traditional Medicine into the National Health System in South Africa.
As an integral part of Indigenous knowledge systems, Traditional Medicine has been recognised and endorsed by the World Health Organisation since the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration of PHC as well as recently the African Union in its Plan of Action on Traditional Medicine (2001 to 2010 extended to 2011 to 2020).
Whilst Traditional Healers have contributed to the processes of establishing the Interim Council and in the evolution of the Health System in South Africa, the fact of the matter however is that the goal of integrating the Traditional Health Medicine into the National Health System still has to happen. The primary role of the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council is to assist the Health Ministry and the Country to achieve this goal within the next three years of their Term of Office.
We acknowledge that in our Country that many primary health care facilities and hospitals have been working in collaboration with Traditional Health Practitioners to contain childhood diseases like Diarrhoea and Vomiting, HIV/AIDS and TB, mental illness and many others. The main focus being training of traditional healers in health promotion, public education and to recognise symptoms for referral to health facilities. Many Traditional Health Practitioners sit on Clinic Committees, Hospital Boards, District Health Committees as well as Provincial and National Advisory Structures.
The Deputy Minister added ‘I am happy and encouraged that many universities and research institutions like the Universities of the Western Cape, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Fort Hare, The Free State, KwaZulu-Natal , Zululand, Pretoria, Limpopo and Venda as well as the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have been engaged in research both at clinical, product and knowledge development in our country for many years.’ This research work covers areas like HIV and AIDS, Malaria, Diabetes and Cancer.
The mandate of the ITHPC is drawn from the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution; the National Health Act, 2003 (Act 61 of 2003) as well as the Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007 (Act No 22 of 2007).
The Traditional Health Practitioners Act specifically provides for:
1. A regulatory framework to ensure efficacy, safety and quality of Traditional Health Services
2. Treatment, and preventative measures in Traditional Medicines.
3. Objectives, Quality, Universal Norms and Standards on Traditional Medicine
The object of the Council as provided for in terms of Section 5 of the Act are to:
a) promote public health awareness;
b) ensure the quality of health services within traditional health practices;
c) protect and serve the interests of members of the public who use or are affected by the services of traditional health practitioners;
d) promote and maintain appropriate ethical and professional standards required from traditional health practitioners;
e) promote and develop interest in traditional health practice by encouraging research, education and training;
f) promote contact between the various fields of training within traditional health practice in the Republic and to set standards for such training;
g) compile and maintain a professional code of conduct for traditional health practice; and
h) ensure that traditional health practice complies with universally accepted health care norms and values.
The Chairperson of the Council, appointed by the Minister, is Mr Abram Conrad Tsiane, the Deputy Chairperson who has just been elected by the Council is Mr Sazi Jericho Mhlongo.
The Council has 20 members and is constituted by representatives of Practitioners from all the nine provinces; A Legal Expert; A Member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (who is a Medical Practioner); A Member of the SA Pharmacy Council (who is a Pharmacist); Community Representatives; Diviners; Herbalists; Traditional Birth Attendants; Traditional Surgeons; Academics; Researchers and the National Department of Health.
This new regulatory dispensation will assist the country to:
1. Protect and enhance the Indigenous Knowledge System in the field of Medicine
2. Address public concerns over unscrupulous and bogus practitioners and practices under the guise of Traditional Medicine, and
3. Enhance our capacity towards attaining the vision of ‘A Long and Healthy Life for all South Africans’.
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