Traditional healers and their medicine to be formalised

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THE first steps towards the recognition of traditional healers and the formalising of the medicine they dispense was taken yesterday when the Ministry of Health inaugurated the newly elected interim Council for Traditional Health Practitioners.

The 20-member council, which will be in office for three years, is made up of members from all nine provinces and also has representatives of stakeholder bodies, including the Health Professions Council and the SA Pharmaceutical Council.

It has representatives of all four cornerstones of traditional health care – diviners, healers, traditional birth attendants and herbalists. The work of the representatives in their communities will include ensuring that quality service is delivered to the public and that bogus practitioners are identified and flushed out.

When introducing the council yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Gwen Ramokgopa said the role of traditional healers in the promotion of health could not be denied and their influence in society could not be ignored.

“Many public health-care facilities work with traditional health- care practitioners to control childhood illnesses and they are instrumental in the treatment of HIV, TB and mental illnesses,” she said.

Traditional health practitioners also sat on hospital boards, school governing bodies and other community structures across the country, and were active in some advisory teams in the department, Ramokgopa said.

Among the tasks of the council was to establish a national register for recognised and authentic traditional health practitioners to be run from provinces.

Newly elected chairman Conrad Tshane said the issue of bogus healers was an urgent one: “We will want to establish who is authentic and who is not. We will have a code of conduct and those found not be authentic will be dealt with.”

The council would develop systems to investigate the authenticity of healers and would establish relations with other countries to deal with healers who came in claiming to have been trained elsewhere.

At the heart of the formation of the council was the protection of the public,

Ramokgopa said. The council would ensure that traditional health practice complied with universal health-care norms and values. The Medicines Control Council had up to now played a limited role in the registration of traditionally produced medicine, and the new framework would increase their involvement.

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