An article by Tamar Kahn in the Business Day late last month caught my eye. In it she quoted Department of health director-general, Precious Matsoso, as saying The Mental Health Care Amendment Bill was published for public comment on July 20 last year, and “no substantial comment was received”.
I know she doesn’t actually say that nobody responded at all, but it did make me think about our own personal responsibility to be active participants in the governance of our country and in the shaping of our health systems.
As I have mentioned before, I attend the Health Portfolio committee meetings in Parliament. These are open to the public, but very few people take advantage of the opportunity this affords.
In a recent Portfolio Committee meeting, Mental Health was under the spotlight. Amendments to the mental Health Bill which were discussed included the sensible suggestion to delegate responsibility for overseeing state mental patients to qualified local officials rather than the full responsibility remaining in the hands of the Minister.
The chairman, Dr Bevan Goqwana, said that the proposed amendments where straight forward.
Many on the committee and in the wider medical community feel that more should be done in this important and growing area. It is also an area that does not get much attention and, because of the stigma attached, is over looked.
Sadly it is a growing problem in South Africa and around the globe. Medical schemes also only pay for the bare minimum they have to legally when it is an area that can have such a major positive impact in society at large.