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25 April 2018

WHO warns SA is not entirely geared up for major epidemics

The WHO's mission report for SA states that should certain health bills be passed into legislation, it would and improve our ability to manage major epidemics.

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The World Health Organization’s Joint External Evaluation (JEE) mission report for South Africa subtly told Parliament to get moving with passing two bills into legislation if the country would like certain healthcare bodies to be considered more than just "average".

According to the report, South Africa is not entirely prepared to deal with a major epidemic and lacks resources in several key areas. 

This is mostly due to the fact that the International Health Regulations Bill, 2013 and the National Public Health Institute of South Africa (NAPHISA) Bill are believed to be delayed by Parliament.

Manage epidemics more efficiently

According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the NAPHISA Bill is still with the National Assembly and needs to go through the National Council of Provinces stage before it reaches the president, who has the authority to finally sign it into legislation.

The WHO and JEE believe that the laws set out in these two bills will boost the country's scores and equip them to manage major epidemics more efficiently.

The mission report, Joint External Evaluation of IHR Core Capacities of the Republic of South Africa, commends the country's sectors for their willingness to collaborate and work together towards a common goal, but added that these sectors should basically have a joint operations committee, so that there are clear chains of command and decision-making structures when emergency strikes.

Average scores

For the mission report, countries are evaluated in 19 technical areas. Scores range from one to five, with one being "no capacity" and five being "sustainable capacity".

South Africa's scores were not great, even though there was only a single one scored for a subsection in antimicrobial resistance, namely health care-associated infection (HCAI) prevention and control programmes.

It appears that South African healthcare facilities need the implementation of infection prevention and control programmes, so that patients, healthcare workers and visitors are adequately protected.

According to the WHO’s Core Components of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Programmes in health care, implementing an IPC programme helps healthcare facilities and workers to prepare for and respond to communicable disease crises.

The country did, however, score quite a few twos, which translates to "limited capacity". Subsections such as detecting and responding to radiation and nuclear emergencies, inter-operable, interconnected and electronic real-time reporting system scored a two, as did the entire national legislation, policy and financing technical areas.

Health24 reached out to National Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, and his team for clarity around the process of the two bills being passed into legislation, but had not received a response at the time of publishing. Should we receive comment from the department, this article will be updated accordingly.

Image credit: iStock

 
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