‘Govt considering allowing doctors to advertise’

HARARE – Government is considering amending the policy which prohibits doctors from advertising in the media, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has said.

Chegutu East Zanu PF MP Webster Shamhu asked in the National Assembly what government’s policy was on the matter.

This comes after doctors proposed to government sweeping amendments to the Health Professions Act to pave way for a new policy which allows health practitioners to advertise.

This also comes as the Health Professions Authority (HPA) has come up with an electronic database of 3 500 health institutions and experts easily accessible to the public.

Parirenyatwa said they are considering amending the policy.

“Policy states that if a doctor has his own surgery or hospital, he is allowed to erect a board or poster to show what he is doing.

“Also, the print has certain measurements that should be observed but they are not allowed to go on air, like on radio, to advertise and encourage people to go to their surgeries.

“Still on that note, there are quite a lot of professional doctors and we have specialist doctors.

“We are amending that policy to ensure that doctors are able to advertise their specialities, which is allowed. Other countries actually allow this to be done in both the print and electronic media.

“We want to see how far we can go pertaining to that,” he said.

Speaking at the authority’s annual congress in November last year, HPA president Adolf Macheka, a specialist surgeon, said the proposed review of the policy and the relaxation of regulations were part of efforts to promote the ease-of-doing-business in the health sector.

“Advertising in the health sector was a long outstanding issue and Zimbabwe is lagging behind in as far as information to the public is concerned.

“The current legislation does not allow advertising and severely restricts even provision of simple health related information to the public, hence the need for a review of the legislation in order to embrace technological advances, emerging concerns and changing international best practices,” Macheka said.

He said the position was taken to make health information more accessible to the public than for commercial reasons.

“The HPA took a position to review the advertising policy. This is underpinned by advertising for information to the public rather than advertising for commercial purposes.

“This we have done and I am happy to inform delegates that a new advertising policy is now in place. The new advertising policy ultimately triggers amendment of Section 135 of the Health Professions Act. That is the process we are currently doing . . . and after this, both the new advertising policy and the proposed amendments to the Act will be submitted to the minister for approval,” Macheka said.

The previous advertising policy had been criticised of being too strict, with citizens even failing to access health tips and information freely from health experts as well as failing to locate specialists easily.

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