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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
20 October 2004
DENTAL TECHNICIANS AMENDMENT BILL AND TRADITIONAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS BILL: NEGOTIATING MANDATES
Chairperson: Mr B Tolo (ANC)
Documents handed out
Dental Technicians Amendment Bill [B63 - 2003]
Traditional Health Practitioners Bill [B66 - 2003]
Western Cape Dental Technicians A/B and Traditional Health Practitioners Bill negotiating mandate
Free State Traditional Health Practitioners Bill negotiating mandate
Limpopo Traditional Health Practitioners Bill negotiating mandate
Kwazulu-Natal Traditional Health Practitioners Bill negotiating mandate
North West Dental Technicians Amendment Bill negotiating mandate
Free State Dental Technicians Amendment Bill negotiating mandate
Kwa-Zulu-Natal Dental Technicians Amendment Bill negotiating mandate
Limpopo Dental Technicians Amendment Bill negotiating mandate
Eastern Cape Dental Technicians Amendment Bill negotiating mandate
The Committee met to receive negotiating mandates on the Dental Technicians Amendment Bill and the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill. Representatives of the Department of Health and State Law Advisors were in attendance to provide clarification on concerns raised. Member concerns included the distinction between dentists and dental technicians; the nature of training provided; opportunities for public hearings; the composition of the Traditional Healers Interim Council, and the status of foreign medical qualifications.
The current Chairperson was absent due to illness, so Mr Tolo served as Acting Chairperson.
Dental Technicians Amendment Bill
Mr Robertsen stated that a briefing had been held on 15 October 2004. A concern had been raised there relating to Section 32 (A) (3) of the principal Act that implied no difference between clients or patients, and members of the public. This required further reconsideration. The Bill was supported subject to that concern being addressed.
Mr J Smit (Director: Oral Health, Department of Health) responded that dental technicians were not qualified to work with members of the public directly, but worked within the confines of a dental laboratory. Only a dentist was allowed to treat a patient directly and a dentist could instruct a dental technician to manufacture the required item that would then be returned to the dentist on completion. The dental technician would be the client of the dentist and therefore the client does not have to be the patient. The patient would not be referred to as the client.
Mr J Thlagale (UCDP) inquired whether dental technicians would be registered with dentists.
Mr Smit responded that two different councils existed. The Health Professions Council of South Africa registered dentists and the Dental Technicians Council dealt with dental technicians. Dental technicians were not allowed to treat the public hence the need for separate councils. Services were restricted to the manufacture of dental equipment.
The Chairperson stated that there were no issues requiring reconsideration by the Department.
Concern was raised over the use of the word "such" within Clause 1, regarding informally trained persons. Misunderstanding could arise that training would have to occur under one dentist or dental technician only for five years. The provincial committee had voted for the adoption of the Bill.
The Chairperson stated that the Department would note the proposed amendment and return with appropriate comments, together with advice from the State Law Advisors.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC) recommended that the Committee hear the opinions of the Department at the present meeting to assist the process of deliberation.
Mr Smit responded that training could commence under different trainers and not specifically with one designated trainer.
The Chairperson added that the reference to "such" a dentist implied one specific individual and recommended the inclusion of the word "a" to avoid confusion.
Mr Motsapi (Legal Advisor- Department of Health) indicated that the intention of the clause was not to restrict training to one dentist or dental technician but to encourage access to training within the wider community.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee should always operate to make legislation more user-friendly by insisting that proposed amendments are clearly defined and requested that the Department consider the issue in question and return with a resolution indicating its intentions.
The provincial committee decided that the amendments did not alter the essential elements of the Bill and the proposed Bill was supported.
A public hearing was held on 14 October 2004 and the provincial committee supported the proposed amendments to the principal Act claiming that the Bill would promote the interests of dental technicians.
The provincial committee agreed to support the proposed amendments
The provincial committee resolved to support the essence and principle of the Bill.
The provincial committee raised a concern over false claims issued to medical schemes by laboratory assistants. The Bill was supported with a request that the amendment be considered.
The Chairperson stated that the concern appeared to be of a general nature and the Council was designed to consider such issues and make appropriate alterations. Therefore, such a concern would be catered for in the workings of the Council.
Traditional Health Practitioners Bill
The provincial committee complained about the lack of public hearings due to time constraints and requested that an opportunity be provided to conduct such hearings. The Bill was supported.
Mr Robertsen referred to two concerns highlighted during recent visits to the province. Traditional healers serving in the National Assembly, NCOP and provincial councils should be allowed to serve on the Interim Council of Traditional Healers and the issue of mental instability seemed problematic due to the incidents of possession that could occur.
The Chairperson referred to a ruling that allowed retired public representatives to serve on the interim council after some time. Clarity was sought on the rationale behind the prevention of public representatives serving on councils.
Mr Motsapi stated that municipal councillors were not excluded from serving on professional councils. The ruling is that professional councils are deemed to be serving the public interest and representatives of legislative bodies could be perceived as serving the interests of law-making bodies to the detriment of public concerns and the interests of the professional council itself. Members of legislatures are not excluded from practising as traditional healers. Past members of legislative bodies could serve on professional councils after a one-year cooling-off period.
Ms T Mdlalose (Director-Department of Health) stated that one of the purposes of the Traditional Council was to determine eligibility of membership and new groups could be incorporated in the future.
The provincial committee made a number of recommended amendments to the Bill regarding Clauses 6, 8 (2), 27 (1), 47 (4) (a) and 48 (2) (2). The Bill was supported with consideration to the listed amendments.
Mr Motsapi responded that the mandate was only received on the day of the meeting and more time was needed to consider the amendments.
The Chairperson asked whether written replies to the proposed amendments could be provided to the Committee before the end of the week. The Department agreed.
Ms Booysen (State Law Advisor) stated that Clause 6 referred to functions that incorporated both powers and duties with "may" referring to powers and "must" referring to duties. Clause 8 (2) refers to the prescribed manner as a person could not be appointed otherwise.
The provincial committee provided a list of proposed amendments. The definition of traditional health practitioner in Clause 1 was too vague and possibly discriminatory as practices other than African traditionalist were excluded. The list of functions in Clause 6 was too long and Clause 17 was contradictory to the Public Finance Management Act as the interim council would be funded by government for the first three years. Amendments were also proposed to Clauses 19, 47 and 48. The Bill was supported with consideration of the listed amendments.
The Chairperson stated that the Department would respond in due course.
The provincial committee agreed to support the Bill without amendments.
The provincial committee proposed that a provincial council be established to deal with all relevant issues and delegates to the national council should be members of the provincial council. Clause 23(1)(c) should be amended by removing three years and substituting it with five years. The Bill was supported subject to the proposed amendments.
The Chairperson requested a response from the Department on the proposed amendments.
Ms Mdlalose stated that the Interim Council would exist for three years after which re-evaluation would occur and a decision taken to implement a normal five-year period or not.
Mr Motsapi replied that Clause 23(1)(c) was intended to deal with practitioners that were absent from South Africa for a prolonged time. The intention of the Bill was to ensure effective regulation of the traditional profession and, therefore, it was essential that adequate control be maintained over the training received by traditional practitioners. Training occurring outside South Africa was difficult to monitor.
The Chairperson asked about the status of a South African who received training outside the country.
Mr Motsapi responded that the question was related to professionals with foreign qualifications that had to undergo a process of conversion in order to acquire recognition. Only South Africans with acceptable qualifications will be registered. The Interim Council would consider, in due course, how to respond to persons with foreign qualifications.
The Chairperson concurred with the sentiments but reminded the Committee of the realities on the ground involving the extensive movement of people in the sub-Saharan region.
Mr Motsapi stated that the intention of the Bill was to create a regulatory framework in which the Interim Council could operate and allow for meaningful monitoring on the part of regulatory authorities.
The provincial committee commented that medical schemes were not consulted during the public hearings and the influx of traditional practitioners from other countries would be difficult to control. The Bill was supported with the accompanying concerns.
The Chairperson requested that the Department reply to the concerns raised by the end of the week and stated that final mandates would be dealt with in the coming week.
The meeting was adjourned.
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