Health institute bill 'too narrow'

The draft bill says that Naphisa have five divisions dealing with communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, occupational health, cancer surveillance, and injury and violence prevention. It proposes phasing in the institution over four years. Kisting said environmental health and safety should be included with occupational health.

“Environmental health in this context refers to risks to the health of communities arising from industrial activities, or where the home and workplace intersect, such as spray painting in backyards causing asthma, or women burning coal for home industries developing silicosis,” she said. “The inclusion of environmental health and safety as a consequence of work-related activities will enhance … prevention and decrease the burden of disease.”

The Medical Research Council (MRC) said it supported the bill, but warned against duplicating the research capacity it already had. “It is imperative to ensure complementary structures and activities harness the limited resources and skills in SA,” said MRC national manager Nkosinathi Bhuka. The draft Bill should be amended to allow the MRC representation on the Naphisa board, and set up funding mechanisms to support collaborative research, he said.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) used the public hearings to raise its concerns about the state of SA’s cancer registry. Cansa health specialist Michael Herbst said the registry was out of date and of limited use because it only contained laboratory-confirmed cancer cases.

A better cancer surveillance system would be a valuable tool in understanding the disease and improving cancer therapy and patient survival, he said. The committee chairperson Lindelwa Dunjwa expressed sympathy for the issues Herbst raised, but as they were outside the scope of the public hearings on the draft legislation, she suggested he return for a separate discussion about the cancer registry at a later date.

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