SOUTH AFRICA ALLOWS TRADITIONAL HEALERS TO PARTICIPATE IN MEDICAL AID SCHEMES

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South Africa's Department of Health is planning to pass legislation allowing traditional healers in the country to claim fees from medical aid schemes. However, there are still a number of obstacles to overcome before the bill can be ratified. These include implementing safeguards on quality, control and registration as well as changing current structures to cope with the unprecedented change to the system.

There are an estimated 350,000 traditional healers in South Africa. The industry generates ZAR250mn (US$39.66mn) per year with approximately 70% of South Africans using traditional medicine. However, the NGO Doctors for Life, which represents medical professionals in South Africa, has fiercely opposed the act, claiming that it is dangerous to regulate the use of medicines that have not been scientifically validated.

Supporters of the bill, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), claim that is important to preserve traditional methods. They also point out that such medicine is both affordable and accessible and that large sections of the population rely on it.

Meanwhile, South Africa's Medical Research Council is planning to conduct research into the safety and effectiveness of traditional medicines. It is hoped these studies will help discover new remedies for chronic conditions as well as provide information for consumers.