Government to push for medical Disciplinary Committee

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There has been great difficulty getting local doctors to cooperate and sit on a legally required Disciplinary Committee to look into the actions of medical professionals, and that’s the reason why such a body is not yet in place.
This is according to the Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph who addressed the issue in Parliament yesterday in the wake of a widely supported petition by members of a grieving family who are demanding that health authorities move swiftly to establish the Committee.
The family of Esme Stevens launched the petition on Change.org in recent days, after claiming that she unnecessarily lost her life on September 11, 2018, as a result of a routine medical procedure gone wrong at the hands of a licensed and experienced medical practitioner in the country.
On Tuesday, minister Joseph acknowledged the need for the formation of  the committee. He, however, stated that since he took  over the ministry, he has been unsuccessful in getting doctors to serve in the required post.
The minister said that the law mandates that there should be three doctors and two ordinary members outside of the medical profession.
“I have since had discussions with the Attorney General with the idea of amending the law to afford the Ministry of Health to secure doctors outside of Antigua and Barbuda. However, the Attorney General has advised against this and has recommended instead for us to amend the law so that people of other disciplines can serve on the Disciplinary Committee,” Joseph said in Parliament on Tuesday.
According to Joseph, the government will move forward to invite retired judges, retired nurses and others who are willing and able to serve on the committee.
It is the Medical Practitioners Act of 2009 which makes provision for the setting up of a Disciplinary Committee, to investigate and punish any wrongdoings on the part of medical practitioners in Antigua and Barbuda.
Meanwhile, addressing Stevens’s death, the health minister explained that it is not a case for the state-owned Mount St. John’s Medical Centre, noting that woman arrived at the hospital very ill and died 24-hours later.
“She did not present to the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre originally for this intervention, it was at a private clinic. I am of the view, and I have discussed this with the Prime Minister, that it is time that we look at liability insurance, medical insurance in Antigua and Barbuda,” Joseph said.
The minister has promised to present to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda, a detailed report from the Medical Director of the hospital, Albert Duncan, about the handling of Stevens’s care from her arrival at the facility to her death.
Stevens had a colonoscopy procedure at a private doctor on September 8 and three days later she died at the public hospital. She had reportedly been complaining of pain but the private medical practitioner allegedly dismissed it as gas and bloating pain which would pass once she continued using the prescribed post-procedure medication which had a five-day course.
Her family said that had she been attended to immediately after she complained on September 9, she could have been alive today.
By the time the family received advice from the doctor to take her to the hospital on September 11, she was feeling unbearable pain to the extent she could not walk, according to relatives.
The family subsequently launched the petition to get the disciplinary committee in place so they could file their complaint and get justice particularly as the note how expensive it is to pursue a lawsuit through the court.
Up to 6:30 p.m. yesterday, the petition had garnered 3,402 signatures. The aim is to get 5,000 signatures and present the petition to the government.

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