BONU threatens to sue gov’t

not amused:nurses
not amused:nurses

Following a brazen statement from the Ministry of Health (MoH) on the issue of dispensing medications by nurses and midwives in health facilities,Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has written a letter of intent to sue, warning government to desist from ordering, threatening and intimidating members of BONU on the above matter.

BONU recently wrote to the Health Ministry highlighting that the current practice of nurses and midwives dispensing medicines is both unlawful and in violation of the code of ethics for practising nurses and midwives. BONU indicated that their decision to cease this practice was made to ensure compliance with the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 2013 and the Nurses and Midwives Act of 1995.

BONU then held talks with the MoH, an exercise which bore no fruit. The union was then forced to cease dispensing prescriptions and further called on nurses, midwives, and members of the public to report any nurse or midwife found dispensing medication and other related substances. In a press release this week the MoH indicated that legal processes have been set in motion to authorise nurses and midwives to dispense medications without any doubt on the legal standing of their actions. The ministry also assured all its nurses and midwives, that all duties that they perform at work and having been so authorised, are legitimate and in order.

“The Ministry therefore, expects nurses and midwives, together with other health care workers, to always remember their oath to help save lives by performing or not omitting to perform any duty that may help save a life. In the short to medium and long term period, the ministry will engage stakeholders about these and related issues and also on legislations that deal with these matters, so that there is no room for ambiguity,” reads the statement from MoH spokesperson Dr Christopher Nyanga.

Through their lawyers Bogopa, Manewe, Tobedza & CO, BONU now feels that the unfortunate response from the Ministry has been to importune, threaten and intimidate nurses into continuing with the performance of the above mentioned acts of criminality. They added that nurses and midwives have been directed and ordered to perform duties of dispensary of medicines at their places of employment.

“We are advised that the MoH has even demanded that it be furnished with the names of ‘non-compliant’ nurses. The position of the law is trite, and the conduct of the Ministry amounts to counselling, aiding and abetting nurses to commit a crime, which is a criminal offence on its own. In short, the Ministry has not only been committing a criminal offence, but it also appears that it brazenly wants to continue committing the said criminal offence, which, needless to say, is a shameful and wanton act,” reads the letter addressed to Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Grace Muzila.

BONU added that the Ministry ought to desist from issuing press releases that further the perpetration of the aforesaid criminal conduct. They warned the government that failure to adhere to their demands shall result in legal proceedings being instituted against the Ministry for a suitable remedy at the Courts of Law.

BONU insists that Section 26 (1) (a-c) of the Medicines and Related Substances Act clearly states that operating a dispensary without proper authority is an offence that may result in imprisonment and/or a fine. They emphasised that the responsibility for dispensing medicines lies with authorised professionals, prohibiting nurses and midwives to undertake this role.

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