Categorized | National News

Medical Act To Be Repealed

The government has decided to put an end to more than 10 years of talk and retool the 40-year-old Medical Act; a move that is necessary if The Bahamas is truly serious about better regulating the medical practice, upgrading medical practitioners and ultimately safeguarding the public.

It is in this vein that the proposed legislation focuses heavily on the quality of doctors.

For instance, The Bahamas Medical Council must be satisfied an applicant is qualified to be a medical practitioner and meets certain requirements to practice medicine or surgery.

According to mover of the bill, Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez, in the event the applicant is deficient in certain subjects, he or she is required to take an examination.

The bill further spells out a degree of professional responsibility for medical practitioners who are registered as specialists.

Dr. Gomez yesterday explained that in the event these practitioners are assisted by others, they must ensure that these people are properly trained and certified to render the required service.

A provision is also included to allow a medical practitioner, who has neither undergone formal training in a speciality nor has the relevant certification in the speciality to be registered as a specialist considering he or she has continuously practiced for a continuous period of no less than 25 years in that speciality.

As the health minister pointed out, an applicant may be refused registration if it is found that his or her character would not be in the public’s interest.

“It may be that he as a physical or mental condition, which significantly impairs his ability to practice as a medical practitioner or that the applicant was previously registered as a medical practitioners in another country and the registration was cancelled on grounds that would justify a similar cancellation in The Bahamas,” Dr. Gomez said.

“The bill provides for the reconsideration of an application where the council refused to register an applicant and makes procedures for such application for reconsideration.”

The proposed legislation also paves the way for an assessment committee, which would examine applicants for registration and advice the Medical Council on the adequacy of the applicant’s qualifications for registration; a complaints committee, charged with conducting preliminary investigations into any matter concerning the ability of a medical practitioner and a disciplinary committee.

This body, made up of medical practitioners with at least 10 years under their belt, will determine allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence and hear and determine other matters.

“Upon the conclusion of a hearing or an investigation, the disciplinary committee shall report in writing its findings and decision and the reasons for its decision to the council,” the minister said.

“The disciplinary committee shall further investigate complaints referred to it by the council following a preliminary investigation by the complaints committee and any allegation made that a medical practitioner is guilty of professional misconduct.”

While the proposed legislation requires a medical practitioner or specialist to publish a notice in any local newspaper of his or her intention to establish a practice, outright advertising is a no-no.

“A medical practitioner or specialist shall not advertise the services to be provided by him or by any group or organisation with which he or she is directly or indirectly associated; make any representation – graphically or otherwise – or engage in or permit any act or behaviour that may or is intended to attract business unfairly or that can reasonably be regarded as advertising or canvassing; or should not allow persons working in his or her officer to engage in unethical practices that can reasonably be regarded as advertising or canvassing,” Minister Gomez stressed.

If passed, the bill would only permit advertising where a medical practitioner or specialist plans to change the office address or his medical practice.

“…He may post a sign outside the premises of the former office for a period of three months,” the health minister told his parliamentary colleagues.

“He may also use a circular to inform another medical practitioner or specialist and patients of his intention to go on leave and any arrangements relating to the operation of his medical practice and the addition of any medical practitioner or specialist to his medical practice provided that the circular contains only his name and qualifications.”

However, a medical practitioner or specialist is permitted to place his announcements of a bona fide commercial, civic professional, social or political organisation in which he serves as officer or director or in connection with medical textbooks, articles or professional journals and other medical publications.

This also includes “dignified and restrained advertisement or in announcement of any public address, lecture or publication on him/her on medical topics provided they do not emphasise his or her own professional competence or another.”

But, Opposition Member of Parliament Hubert Chipman charged that while the bill is both timely and important, the government has still not addressed critical issues like a lack of medication, no full time doctors and unavailable medical equipment.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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