Healers still do not have full professional status

IT HAS been over a year since former president Thabo Mbeki signed a bill that was to recognise and regulate the practice of traditional healers in the country, but not much has happened to take the act forward.

IT HAS been over a year since former president Thabo Mbeki signed a bill that was to recognise and regulate the practice of traditional healers in the country, but not much has happened to take the act forward.

Traditional healers still do not enjoy the full health professional status that they were granted after the signing of the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill.

One of the clauses in the bill tasked the National Traditional Healers' Council to negotiate with medical aids to allow healers to claim for services rendered. And that is yet to happen as well.

According to medical aid schemes, traditional healers cannot claim for services rendered to patients because they are not registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

"Medical schemes are by the law obliged to only cover medical expenses from medical practitioners who are registered with the HPCSA," said Alain Peddle of research and development at Discovery Health.

While traditional healers are waiting for the council to negotiate with schemes on their behalf, some municipalities are putting the bill into action. Ekurhuleni is one of those municipalities. It was recently praised by the local Traditional Health Practitioners Forum for creating an enabling environment in which medical professionals can work alongside them, especially on HIV-Aids.

Forum chairperson Sheila Mbele-Khama said: "Our forum does not only present an alternative to patients but also ensures that our medicines are efficient and not toxic.

"There is a link between traditional healers and medical practitioners. We are able to diagnose a patient and refer them to the local clinics. When a patient gets to a clinic and asks for traditional help, they refer that person to us." .

Ekurhuleni has facilitated a number of accredited training courses for traditional practitioners to help them to diagnose diseases such as sugar diabetes, high blood pressure, and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV and Aids.

"We now also distribute condoms as a prevention measure. But, we would like a platform where we teach our young girls and boys the traditional practice in which a young girl treasures her virginity, keeping herself pure until she gets married," Mbele-Khama said.

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