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Health Practioners' Bill Just What The Doctor Ordered

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Thursday, November 9, 2006 – Minister for Health Honourable Damian Greaves tabled the Health Practitioners Bill at a Sitting of the House of Parliament on Tuesday November 7th 2006, signalling major changes to come to the legislative environment governing medical practitioners on the island.

Describing the document as “revolutionary”Minister Greaves said the prescriptions in the bill will amount to more professional and conscientious delivery of health services, as it addresses outstanding loopholes in the profession.

“So no doctor or dentist can practice without having a practising certificate and this certificate will detail the type of practice and therefore, the scope of the practice. The certificate will have to be displayed and that is very important. It will have to be displayed in a prominent location such that the public will know exactly what the practitioner is licensed to practice,” he said.

The bill introduces new requirements such as a licensing regime, an appeals board and clear definitions between the roles of general practitioners and that of specialists among other measures aimed at heightening professional standards and public protection.

“Similarly, for the allied health practitioner, chiropractors and herbalists and such such like optometrists, there will be a license that is renewable every year This license will also clearly define the type of practice. This means Mr. Speaker, that the existing confusion that has been created between the various disciplines of the healing professions will be eliminated,” the minister said.

The new Health Practitioners Bill is said to be conceptualised to ensure that doctors keep apace with the dynamic changes occurring in the field of medicine.

Minister Greaves pointed out that the licenser regime will require proof that doctors are continuing their education.

“And the system ensures that every practitioner remains competent. The requirements for issuing and renewing a license or practising certificate, will include proof that the practitioner has remained current in the relevant practice and also demands documentation of their continuing professional development and continuing medical education,” said the minister.

Minister Greaves said the Bill also demands the formalisation of a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct for all Practitioners.

He said, “It gives the councils prescribed by the legislation, in this bill, the power to sanction practitioners who breech these codes. And the bill goes further; it gives the medical and dental council the responsibility and authority to govern the conduct of research and use or disposal of human material.”

In this way, the Minister says, the legislation will speak on a very controversial area of medicine, which may be applicable to issues such as stem cell research and the use of body fluids and tissue, so as to ensure that these are dealt with in a legal, respectful and proper manner.

The minister is happy the process leading up to the compilation of the Health Practitioners Bill was characterised by much dialogue. He particularly singled out the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association and the Practitioners of Natural Medicine for their contributions.

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