House passes updates to nurses and midwives law

The National Assembly last Thursday passed amendments to the legislation governing nursing and midwifery, which Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence said will improve the welfare of practitioners.

The bill was first tabled last October.

Piloting the Nurses and Midwives Bill 2018 through its final stages, Lawrence said it covers the practice of all registered nursing personnel, including nurses, midwives, nursing assistants and specialised nurses such as anaesthetics nurses and emergency nurses.

Lawrence explained that recent poor performances by nurses at the national state final examinations coupled with the observance of a weak monitoring system to validate nursing and midwifery education and practice prompted the Ministry of Public Health to pay closer attention to the sector as well as to implement a number of strategic actions, including the revision and finalisation of the existing Nurses and Midwives Bill.

She added that with the support from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), a legal consultant was appointed and, with a team of key nursing leaders from both the public and private sectors and full participation from the executive of the Guyana Nursing Association, reviewed the bill to ensure compliance with global standards.

Lawrence referenced the establishment of the General Nurses and Midwife Council (GNMC) as a governing body.

She said the bill empowers the GNMC to enrol, register, certify and license nursing personnel as well as to set standards for education, training, conduct and performance.

“For example, the GNMC should publish in the gazette all registered persons annually. In clause five, the bill speaks to the registration and licensing and it states no person shall practise nursing or midwifery in Guyana unless that person is registered and holds a valid license issued under this act,” Lawrence said.

“It sets out the requirements for full and temporary registration for nursing personnel and for the maintenance of related registers of nursing personnel by the Council. Further, the bill at part two clause five empowers the Council to take disciplinary actions against nursing personnel for breach of established standards of professional conduct and provides for the establishment of a disciplinary committee – a mechanism for the receipt of complaints and rules of procedures for disciplinary proceedings before the council,” she added.

She said that the drive for the amended bill shows the ministry’s commitment to improving the welfare and wellbeing of the nurses and midwives, whom she said constitute the pillars of a sustainable and effective healthcare system.

Junior Public Health Minister Karen Cummings also took to the floor to register her support for the bill, which she said will provide a modern legislative framework for the effective and efficient management of the nursing profession in Guyana.

“[It] will establish a new and improved governing body to oversee in a more inclusive and transparent manner. Ensuring that [the] nurses and midwives council becomes a body corporate is a step in the right direction as the ministry aims to reform and improve the sector,” she added.

The bill was taken through its final stages at the sitting without any input from the opposition members, who were absent.

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