Opinion | Government should prioritize the enactment of the nurses and midwives bill
In 2011, the process of drafting this bill started and numerous consultations were done involving several international bodies including the International Council of Nurses and International Confederation of Midwives, some regional Nurses and Midwives associations, and Nursing and midwifery Councils. It was done in an inclusive manner involving all the stakeholders led by the Ministry of Health. This bill is very important in providing a legal framework and regulating the work of the nurses and midwives in South Sudan, for all these years they’ve been operating without any legal framework and make it difficult for the Council to regulate them. Ideally, through the Act, the Council will gain control over them by registering all of them, bridging the gap between the Nurses and Midwives through their associations and government, and holding their members accountable for any misconduct and abuse of ethics. It will also ensure that quality and safe nursing and midwifery services are provided to the public, This Bill will also ensure that South Sudan meets the required international standards and be on par with other countries in the region with enacted Nursing and Midwifery Bill and Council.
Status of Nurses and Midwives in South Sudan;
Since 2011 up-to-date, the nurses and midwives are operating in South Sudan without any legal framework and this is risking the lives of millions of South Sudanese because we lack the regulatory body and their work is never anchored in any piece of legislation. It is difficult to ascertain how many nurses and midwives we have in the Country because the Council is not yet fully operational and anyone could call themselves a nurse or midwife without the required qualifications and competency in the absence of regulations and a Bill. Equally, it is difficult to hold nurses and midwives accountable who violate their oath of service since there’s no legal framework for them to operate on and difficult for clients and their families to seek assistance or bring a complaint in a formal manner through the complaints mechanism that this Bill will offer. From anecdotal evidence, it is estimated that there are over 2,000 professional nurses and 1,000 professional midwives in the country. Research shows that without the regulations of health professionals, it is families who suffer the most.
South Sudan has some of the worst health indicators in the world including one the highest rates of maternal deaths occurring during pregnancy and childbirth. Newborn and infant deaths are also high. It is important, therefore, for nurses and midwives as one of the largest health care workforce in any country and the health care worker who is almost always the first point of contact for the public be regulated. With the recent reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and after its dissolution over the weekends and also RTGoNU indication of prioritizing bills related to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISS) implementation were some of the bills already drafted by the National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC) and currently with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs awaits tabling before the Reconstituted Parliament.
It is fundamentally important for RTGoNU to equally prioritize the Nurses and Midwives bill already with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. The Governance Cluster under the leadership of First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar should consider prioritizing this bill and pass it to the Council of Ministers for approval before forwarding it to the National Assembly. We shouldn’t play with the lives of our people and also ensure that those saving lives are protected and regulated by the law.
As a matter of urgency, RTGoNU should prioritize passing the bill once Parliament is reconstituted and ensure our amazing and hard-working nurses and midwives are protected and empowered by law. There’s no way they can continue operating without any legal framework when providing the much-needed services to the people. Our appeal to the government to treat this matter with utmost consideration it deserved.
Wani Michael is a youth representative on the National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC) and the Executive Director of Okay-Africa Foundation. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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