Although it is currently with the Special Select Committee, the Allied Health Professionals Bill is likely to be up for debate by next month. This is according to an optimistic Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy who related that a report is expected from the Committee which has already examined the draft Bill at a meeting last week. A final meeting he said is likely to be scheduled shortly before the document is taken back to Parliament.
But this move, he said, may not be possible as Parliament will be taken up with the Budget debate for the balance of this month. The unveiling of the 2010 Budget is slated for today.
“I expect that with the Budget being read Monday (today) it will occupy the attention of Parliament for the whole of February so this Bill may not be brought before Parliament until March,” the Minister speculated
With the passage of the Allied Health Professionals Bill, Dr Ramsammy will be bestowed with the power to determine who is allowed to practice in the medical field and in what capacity. The first reading of the Bill occurred in Parliament in April of last year but was referred to the Special Select Committee, which was tasked with discussing its content.
The intent of the Bill is to bring greater legal and regulatory framework to guide the practice of a number of health professionals.
It was the expectation of the Minister that the Committee would have invited stakeholders to make presentations about the Bill as it is a very important legislation which would impact many persons in the society. Among the categories of persons that will be affected with the passage of the legislation are herbalists and others who claim they can heal diseases for which there is no cure, chiropractors, medical technologists as well as optometrists and opticians.
And according to the Minister for some time now, there has been confusion as to how optometrists and opticians are regulated. He explained that the optometrists are doctors who are trained to deal with the eye while opticians are technologists and not doctors. Opticians he said are able to do certain measurements in the eye to determine an individual’s vision level and are able to make lens in this regard. However they are not permitted to write prescriptions as this is the duty of the optometrist, who is also trained to carry out eye tests.
“The public does not understand this and many of the opticians have been misrepresenting themselves as doctors and that will change with this law.”
According to the Minister, optometrists have a 1956 ordinance that controls their practice. And since there are only about five of them in Guyana, he disclosed that the Medical Council is tasked with implementing laws and regulations that govern their operation thus they are required to register with the Council.
The opticians, on the other hand, the Minister said, will be mandated to register under the Allied Health Professionals Act when it becomes law as will several other operators who are currently allowed to provide health-related care.
Meanwhile, the Minister has endorsed the recently launched Bachelors of Science Optometry Programme which will commence September next at the University of Guyana. However, the Minister has warned that there is need for a legal framework to accommodate the personnel that are being trained. “There is confusion in Guyana as there is in many countries, as to who are the opticians and who are the optometrists and where they fit in, in the world of the ophthalmologists.”
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