Medical Practice Bill Finally Reaches National Assembly Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Dr. Adelita ZaidenHon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health, is receiving praises in the medical community for being true to his word. Minister Marin promised medical practitioners that his number one agenda in this new administration would be to push the Belize Medical Practice Act for which members of the Belize Medical and Dental Association have been lobbying for over 17 years. Doctors were skeptical up to the last minute. When the President of the Belize Medical and Dental Association, Dr. Adelita Zaiden, informed them that the bill would be read in the House of Representatives on Friday, September 28th, most said that they would have to see it to believe it. Their skepticism is understandable. Practicing in such an unregulated field has been frustrating for medical professionals, but since the bill has been read a first time in the House they are now one step closer to establishing a level playing field for all in the sector.

The bill reads, “AN ACT to provide for the control and regulation of the practice of medicine in Belize by medical practitioners; to repeal the Medical Practitioners Registration Act… and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidentally thereto.” Zaiden says the Medical Practice Act will establish a Medical Council and reform the registration procedure for medical practitioners. The Medical Council will be made up of seven members. The Director of Health Services and the President of the Belize Medical and Dental Association are ex-officio (non-voting) members. The Minister will appoint, at his own discretion, two registered medical practitioners and one registered dental practitioner from the Association. The Minister will also appoint two medical or dental practitioners on the advice of the Association. The council will appoint a secretary and elect a vice-chairman and treasurer. The chairman will be appointed by the Minister. Each member, with the exception of the ex-officio members, will serve a term of three years.

The Medical Council is responsible to examine all applications for the registration and licensing of medical practitioners in Belize and to develop processes and procedures in relation to the registration and licensing of medical practitioners. The Council must also determine which professional schools, colleges, universities, training institutions and educational programs from other jurisdictions are acceptable in connection with registration and licensing in Belize and to examine and evaluate applications and recommend to the Registrar the issuance or otherwise of certificates in relation to the registration and licensing of medical practitioners. The council will also ensure the continued education of medical practitioners to maintain high standards of medical practice in the country. Zaiden says continued education will be stressed under the new Act since doctors will be required to accumulate a certain amount of credit hours upon application for recertification.

The Council now has legal authority to hold doctors accountable for unethical, unprofessional or unlawful medical practice. If a person makes a complaint to the Medical Council alleging professional misconduct against a medical practitioner; or, even without a report, if the council have suspicions that a medical practitioner has committed professional misconduct the Council can launch an investigation into the matter. The Secretary of the Council will inform the practitioner of the complaint and call on the individual  to answer the allegations, whether personally, or in the company of an attorney, or to provide an explanation or representation he may wish to make before a specified date determined by the Medical Council. If the Medical Council, after hearing an application of professional misconduct, is satisfied on a preponderance of the evidence that the allegations made against the medical practitioner to whom the application relates have been established or that conduct alleged against him constitutes professional misconduct, the Medical Council may suspend, limit or restrict the individual’s medical certificate or revoke the practitioners authority to practice medicine in Belize. The practitioner may also be ordered to pay costs to the complainant.

In simple language, the Medical Practice Act limits the political interference in medical practice by putting the medical practitioners in charge of regulating the profession. Zaiden must be commended for her tireless lobbying effort which led to numerous meetings with Minister Marin. Medical professionals are now eagerly awaiting the second and third reading of the bill.