14 March 2013

Namibia: Doctors Investigate Regulatory Council

AN organisation representing private health practitioners is investigating criminal charges against the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC) for contempt of a July 2012 Supreme Court judgement.

The chairperson of the Namibia Private Practitioners Forum (NPPF), Dr Johannes Coetzee, has written a letter to the NMRC in which he said the regulator had acted in contravention of the court order when it revoked medicine dispensing licences from some registered medical practitioners.

Among other things, the NMRC refused to issue some of these licences to registered medical practitioners because, as it stated, "the greater Namibian community has adequate access to a substantial number of varied healthcare services in the surrounding areas".

Coetzee reminded the NMRC that the Supreme Court judgement maintained that there is "no need to limit access to medicine to pharmacists to the exclusion of medical practitioners". The court further ruled that there is "no reason why people should not have a free choice whether to obtain their medicine from a medical practitioner or a pharmacy". The court further said the NMRC's position is not in the public interest.

"There can be no doubt that the NMRC is acting in contradiction of the order of the Supreme Court. The NMRC is either ignorant of, or wilfully ignoring the judgement," Coetzee said.

The NPPF asked the NMRC to explain in writing why the medical practitioners should not institute criminal charges and/or other legal proceedings against it for ignoring the court order.

A response from the NMRC was requested by February 6, but the NMRC has yet to respond to the NPPF, hence the NPPF's decision to consider pressing criminal charges against the regulator.

The medical fraternity and the NMRC locked horns last year when the regulator directed that all medical aid funds must stop paying for injections and immunisations administered by doctors who do not have medicine dispensing licences. Medical practitioners argued that this could result in a health crisis because it meant that patients would be denied essential drugs.

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