Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017


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Medical Council
(Aired 26 September 2001)

    For some years now the doctors in this country have been at war with the minister of Health both of them, Jeffrey and now Ramsammy, concerning the constitution of our Medical Council.

   The background to this goes back to 1998 when Minister of Health, Jeffrey, refused to accept the 6 names which were submitted to him by the Medical Association, as he was required to do by law.

   At that time, the law stipulated that the Medical Council would constitute the Chief Medical Officer and six medical practitioners after the minister consulted with the Medical Association or Associations who would nominate the members to the Medical Council.

   In March 1998 the Guyana Medical Association according to this law, submitted six names to Minister Jeffrey, but the Minister was not comfortable with two of the names and he rejected them.

   The Guyana Medical Association refused to withdraw the two names and the matter ended up in the courts.

   In the court the then Chief Justice ruled that since no adequate reasons were given by the Minister, the names Ramsahoye and Hanoman should not have been rejected by Jeffrey from the list submitted by the Medical Association.  

    In addition her Honour ruled that the names of Drs. Sattaur and Imhoff, which were submitted by Minister Jeffrey, are the ones that should be rejected. Thereby establishing clearly that consultation did not mean, having the last say in the matter, as the genius Jeffrey, was doing.

   Minister Jeffrey in an effort to thwart the court's ruling, and notwithstanding being cited for contempt by the court, proceeded to parliament in 1999 to change the legislative mechanism by which the Medical Council shall be appointed.

    This new legislation required that all the medical practitioners in the country hold an election and nominate the necessary 6 names, these, along with a nominee from the medical school and a lay person appointed by the president, shall constitute our Medical Council.

    The Minister told us at that time, that this was a much fairer, more democratic, more transparent way to establish a Medical Council.

   Before passing judgement, let us analyse what the Medical Council does, what its purpose is supposed to be, and how it should function in the public's interest.

   The Medical Council in this country is supposed, to monitor our doctors' performance, to accept complaints from the public against them in the very likely event of them maiming any member of our public through malpractice or carelessness, the council accesses practitioners on an ongoing basis by setting examinations etc. for them, it also registers all practitioners after examining their qualifications, and deal with disciplinary matters concerning lapses by them. It decides who are, and who are not specialists, according to the criteria that were set many years ago.

    In researching this commentary I found one provision in the process which militates against the system, all complaints to the medical council are required to be catalogued and recorded in writing, very few of our citizens are capable of doing so. I think that this should change. Too many persons hurt by the system are unable to represent their situation in writing. The Medical Council should therefore afford the public, the facility, of helping them through private hearings to record their grievances, in the proper form, in the interest of our citizens.

    In view of all of this, one is therefore led to the inevitable conclusion, that our Medical Council should comprise our most qualified, respected and fearless doctors who will deal with infractions, malpractice, unprofessional conduct [interfering with their female patients for example] etc, as it applies to any member of the public who have been maimed, by mistakes and or incompetence by any Doctor.

    All of this is very straight forward up to this point, and the Minister of Health and the Medical Association ought not to be at loggerheads, if indeed they wanted the same thing, i.e. an improvement in the way our Doctors handle and treat our people, with courtesy, with the highest level of professionalism and if they injure someone, then the matter can be taken to an impartial, fair, vibrant Medical Council, by the aggrieved citizen, for action.    

   Most of the new Doctors in this country work for the Government, a substantial amount of them from our own University of Guyana, I have concluded, given the evidence I have, that it is fair to say, that most complaints to the Medical Council about wrong doing by doctors, are brought against this group who work in our government facilities, the Public Hospitals, Medical Centres, etc.

    It is therefore not in the interest of the public to have the Medical Council comprise and be controlled by substantial numbers of these poorly trained Government doctors who will in fact end up, as a group, policing themselves and defending themselves from an aggrieved public, supported by their boss the Minister of Health.

    So Minister Jeffrey's and now Minister Ramsammy's efforts, take on a different, more sinister aspect, this may not have anything at all to do with better, fairer elections of members to the Medical Council, but an attempt to fill the Medical Council with the type of Doctors who will not, and can not, carry out the functions of the council in the interest of the public. And more importantly award specialist status to poorly qualified doctors, which is also certainly not in the interest of the public.

    In this country for example, Government employed lawyers are not allowed to be members of the Bar association. The reason is simple; the lawyers do not want the government employed lawyers to control their body, since it is not in their interest to have it so, it can politise the bar association.

    Why then, should we allow the Government Doctors, who are far more likely to maim and hurt our public, to be in control of our Medical Council, leaving the people of this country aggrieved by this situation, without recourse?  

    Fellow Guyanese, we must open our eyes, things are not always what they seem. I have seen this phenomena before in the way minister Nagamootoo wanted to control our Broadcast Authority, so I am familiar with it.

   Poorly trained and careless doctors learning their trade at the expense of an unsuspecting public, of any race, is dangerous. And I for one, demand that Jeffrey and Ramsammy stay out of the Medical Council's affairs.