Legislative reform in the making for health sector – Ministry official
In recognition of the fact that its new operations framework will have to revolve around updated legislation, the Ministry of Health with the support of the Attorney General is currently working towards having key legislation repealed.
At least this is according to the Health Ministry’s Parliamentary Secretary, Joseph Hamilton, who during an interview with this publication revealed that the Ministry currently functions under legislation that dates back to the colonial period.
“They will have to be repealed and we have started on that journey,” said Hamilton.
At the moment at least two outdated pieces of legislation are gaining the attention of the Attorney General’s Chambers. These, according to Hamilton, are the Nurses and Midwives and the Optometrists’ legislation.
It was also disclosed that there are plans to commence consultations very shortly with stakeholders and the public, even as measures are put in place to repeal the existing Public Health Ordinance. The proposed replacement will take the form of the Health Promotion and Protection Bill, Hamilton said.
“In the next couple of weeks I will commence consultations with the Regional Democratic Councils, Municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, because the Public Health Act straddles everything…whether it has to do with housing, hotels, eating places or the types of foods we eat…and so we have to do wide consultations,” said the Parliamentary Secretary.
Added to this, Hamilton disclosed that moves are afoot to include in the Health Promotion Bill how mass gatherings are dealt with. This undertaking is especially crucial, since according to him “I suspect we are unprepared…if you have 10,000 people gathered and you don’t have medical facilities, what will happen if there is a tragedy.”
Hamilton said that against this background there must be prescription to allow for people to hold mass gatherings, inclusive of a medical tent complete with doctors and nurses.
He alluded to an incident during the most recent Bartica Regatta which resulted in the death of a popular speedboat racing champion, Orin Belle. “I suspect he died because we are back in time. If I understand it, he took about an hour before he got medical attention, and all the information suggests that he bled to death.”
“If we had a medical outpost at Lake Mainstay I suspect Mr Belle might have been alive, because he would have been stabilised; he would have had medical intervention before being taken to the hospital some 45 minutes away,” said Hamilton.
“We can’t have situations where we have men driving at 100-odd miles an hour and these things have propellers that can kill you, and you don’t have a doctor and you don’t have nurses. So that is a new remedy you have to bring.”
Moreover, he asserted that there is need for water sports to have legislation governing them, as should other high speed sporting activities such as car racing. Referring to car racing, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he has been informed that over time measures were put in place to ensure that medical outfits were organised during such events.
“They have had their medical outfits there but that was ad hoc. They just thought they should do it…but this is the way it must be done.”
According to Hamilton, in order for any mass gathering to be held today, permission must be granted by the Police Force as well as the Fire Service. However, the new proposed legislation will require that permission is granted by the Chief Medical Officer as well.
“He will have to ensure that you are suitably prepared. If you are going to gather 5,000 you have to prove to us that you have a tent, a doctor, nurses, an ambulance on standby…but if you go beyond 5,000 the same remedy cannot apply.”
Another issue that the legislation is likely to govern is the operation of pools in public spaces. This is in light of the fact that over the past 10 years there were several drowning incidents at a particular public pool and other resort type locations.
“There is a need for a lifeguard and that is how it must be done. Were those measures in place we could have saved a lot of lives. We have to do consultations with the promoters, sponsors of these events, business people and all the people concerned.”
Also, Hamilton said that in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government, another Bill will be crafted with the intent of establishing an Environmental and Solid Waste Authority to address garbage disposal.
“People often just focus on the garbage but fail to consider the wider situation. We have to find a way, holistically, how we deal with solid waste management, from Crabwood Creek to the North West District to the South Rupununi,” Hamilton insisted.
The Environmental Protection Agency, he said, hasn’t the remit to address solid waste management and currently “we have no framework, and so the Attorney General is working to develop the legal prescription.”