Officials school Cabinet, lawyer says Dr. Humphreys case in a ‘state of flux’

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The suggestion by Cabinet that Dr. Jose Humphreys can petition that authority through the Cabinet Secretary to challenge his deregistration as a medical practitioner in Antigua and Barbuda is a flawed one, according to several officials.

These officials, including from the legal as well as the medical profession, responded yesterday after the Cabinet issued a statement Wednesday following its usual weekly meeting.

The statement indicated that, “The Minister of Health [Molwyn Joseph] addressed the issue of the withdrawal and denial of a license to practice medicine, imposed on Dr. Jose Humphreys. The Medical Act CAP 269 Section 12 permits anyone who is denied registration as a medical doctor, by the Medical Board, to appeal to the Cabinet by way of petition lodged with the Registrar who is required to bring the petition to the Cabinet Secretary.”

According to that statement, the Cabinet has not been advised of a pending petition and three months have not passed since Dr. Humphreys suffered the setback in early May.

Sources who requested anonymity advised that they were only commenting to shed light on the error by Cabinet in thinking that that particular legislation applies in the case of Dr. Humphreys.

It was pointed out that The Medical Act, passed in 1938, speaks to revocation by the Medical Board, which is an entirely separate situation from a revocation from the Medical Council, which is a different entity from the Board.

And, the Medical Act, Section 12, states, “12. (1) If a Medical Board declines to direct the Registrar to register anyone who applies to be registered under this Act, he may appeal, within three months after such refusal shall have been communicated to him, to the Cabinet, and if it be made to appear to the Cabinet that he is entitled to be registered under this Act, the Cabinet may direct that he shall be so registered on payment of the prescribed fee. (2) Such appeal shall be by way of petition, which shall be lodged with the Registrar, who shall bring the same to the notice of the Secretary to the Cabinet forthwith.”

The Medical Board, registers dentists, optometrists, and other paramedicals, officials in the industry pointed out.

Those officials said Dr. Humphreys’ case does not fall under that Act nor category of medical workers. They advise that the Cabinet should properly inform itself that the Medical Practitioners Act is what governs this case.

And under that legislation, passed in 2009, the Medical Council is the one responsible, as is evident where Dr. Humphreys was initially registered, albeit by error according to the Council, in 2011 and he applied to that body to renew his licence in 2014.

Legal sources said that under Section 15 of the Medical Practitioners Act, any challenge to its decision regarding the denial of a licence, has to be appealed in Court.

That section specifies, “A person who is aggrieved by the refusal of the Medical Council to grant him or her registration (including provisional registration), or by the removal of his or her name from the register, or by the decision of the Medical Council to censure him or her or suspend or revoke his or her registration, may within three months after the date on which notice is given by the Medical Council of such refusal, removal, censure or suspension or revocation, appeal against the Medical Council’s decision to a judge of the High Court who shall give such direction in the matter as he or she may think proper, including a direction as to the costs of the appeal.”

In this case, the Court’s jurisdiction was invoked, and Dr. Humphreys lost because when he claimed he had been refused a renewal of his licence in 2014, this, according to the court, was a misguided claim. The court said this while highlighting the fact that the Medical Council had asked him to provide proof that he had completed/obtained all the required qualifications, including internship. The Council had also said the renewal of the licence was pending the submission of those documents sought.

As such, the High Court dismissed his claim.

When he appealed, the Appellate Court told him the same thing in March this year, dismissed his appeal and ordered him to submit the documents requested. However, OBSERVER media learned from sources that the documents he submitted in April 2019 did not show that he had completed the necessary qualifying criteria for registration/to be licensed.

 The Medical Council reportedly responded to him, indicating the areas where he fell short and after no further documents were provided, the Council, in early May, deregistered him.

Ever since the battle started almost five years ago, many residents have been claiming that Dr. Humphreys is being victimised, but all the courts have indicated that the Medical Council is not in place to simply rubberstamp licence renewal just because someone was registered before.

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