Government gets tough on fake traditional healers

The State Minister of Health General duties) Sarah Opendi has said that the recently passed Complementary Medicines Act (2019) is not intended to  jeopardise the work of traditional healers but rather to streamline their activities.

Speaking at Media Centre on Thursday, Opendi said that government drafted the law to regulate the use of traditional and complimentary medicines.

“The bill has objectives to define and standardize the concept and provide acceptable standards of indigenous and complementary medicine practice in collaboration with modern medicine sectors,” Opendi said.

The bill which was last week passed into law by Parliament provides for the establishment of a council responsible for the regulation of indigenous and complementary medicine practitioners, defining their roles registering and issuing them with licenses.

The council shall have sufficient representation from the practitioners.

According to the National Medicine Policy 2015, nearly 80% of the population in developing countries use traditional medicine as a first call for treatment before visiting a health facility.

In Uganda the PPP for Health Policy (2012) states that 60% of the population use Traditional and Complimentary medicine (TCM) for primary healthcare.

This, Opendi said, made it relevant to have such law to provide for a regulatory framework for traditional herbalists, and  integrate traditional and complimentary medicine in the healthcare system.

Government was also moved by the growing number of quack traditional healers issuing herbs with subtances that lacked capacity to cure diseases.

The bill prohibits advertisement of herbal medicines without authorization by a health council that is yet to be constituted.

Anyone who advertises without the authorisation will have their licence revoked and also be liable to a fine not exceeding Shs 20 million.

The new law also makes it an offence for a traditional medicine practitioner to use the title doctor.

“A person who practices indigenous and complementary medicine shall not use or refer to himself or herself titles belonging to the practice of modern medicine for which they are not qualified such as doctor, nurse or professor. The Minister may on the recommendation by the Council, by statutory order declare titles to be used by practitioners of indigenous and complementary medicine based on their qualifications and quality of service rendered.” the law states.

It also provides for registration of all practitioners by the council and also sets the qualifications for registration.

It also requires traditional medicine practioners to  have the relevant knowledge, training or skill recognized by the health council to practice traditional medicine and must be endorsed by the District Health officer, the village local council executive.

In the case of complementary medicine, the person should hold a valid qualification in the field of specialisation of the complimentary medicine from a recognized institution by the council and also endorsed by the DHO and village local council executive.