Maun High Court has ruled in favour of Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) that some of its members are to be recognised by the Botswana Health Practitioners Council (BHPC).
According to court papers, BONU filed the application on its behalf and on behalf of its members who according to the union are candidate Public Health Practitioners registrable under the Health Practitioners Act but barred from such registration on the basis of their professional background as nurses.
“The principal members of BONU affected by the barring to registration are Kagiso Kgakge, Aobakwe Lesolame, Kgola Tebogo Senatla and Kenosi Mogorosi. The purpose of the application is said to include an objective to unite Nurses into one organisation for advancing their professional, social and economic welfare. The application was prompted by the refusal of BHPC to consider member nurses of BONU for registration as Public Health Practitioners under BHPC despite holding qualifications under the Public Health,” reads the court papers.
The BONU members as stated above are nurses as they did nursing in their undergraduate studies. Nurses and doctors have professional membership under two separate councils in Botswana established under two different statutes. The Nursing and Midwifery Council is established under the Nurses and Midwifes Act while the doctors and other recognised health fields are under a council known as Botswana Heath Practitioners Council (BHPC) which falls under the Botswana Health Professions Act (BHPA).
“The above arrangement notwithstanding, nurses have been engaged in personal development and have pursued other fields outside nursing e.g. public health. Members of BONU who had gained qualifications in Public Health were not registered under any council and this state of affairs remained so until the amendment to the Botswana Health Professions Act through Statutory Instrument (SI) No 91 of 2017.
The instrument introduced 12 new disciplines under the Allied Health Professions category. The last addition in the Allied Health Professions was the introduction of Public Health as a profession registrable by the BHPC.
BHPC classified the four BONU members as Specialist Public Health Nurses registrable under the Nurses and Midwives Act. By this, BHPC created bars against registration of the BONU members under BHPA as public health practitioners. Thus BONU members with qualifications in Public Health are kept from being subjected to the registration requirements of the BHPA. Some of their colleagues who did the same courses like Lesolame have been registered while his course mates are not.
In his ruling, Justice Nthomiwa declared BHPC erroneous for finding nurses who are members of BONU with qualifications of Public Health to be specialist public health nurses rather than public health practitioners.
“Consequent to the above, BHPC’s decision to bar members of BONU with public health qualifications from applying for registration as public health practitioners in the allied professions be declared unlawful. BHPC is ordered to henceforth allow members of BONU with public health qualifications to apply for registration and be considered on merit per the requirements of the BHPA, he said.
Justice Nthomiwa further said the all-applicants bar to registration as public health practitioners invoked by BHPC be declared inapplicable to all members of BONU who applied and/or attempted to apply prior to the said bar.
BHPC was also ordered to transparently account as to the cause and commencement of the all-applicants bar to registration invoked, and account as to when the bar will be lifted - with a reasonable deadline period of lifting the bar set at most to three months - for benefit of other members of BONU who are yet to apply for registration.
“The decision of BHPC to invoke bars against BONU members from registration is discriminatory by elitism, as well and ultra vires and therefore unlawful. All bars instigated by BHPC should be set aside and all members of BONU bearing requisite qualifications be considered by merit for registration per the Botswana Health Professions Act. The BHPC ought to fully comply with the Botswana Health Professions Act and its amendments of SI No. 91 of 2017,” he said.
BHPC will pay the cost of the suit.