Amendments proposed to health care laws in Bahrain

The existing law specifically refers to medical practitioners under the Health Ministry with the Health Minister being the supreme authority, and does not cater to the private sector

  
Health and medicare concept. Image used for illustrative purpose

Health and medicare concept. Image used for illustrative purpose

Getty Images/Nora Carol Photography

Bahrain - Alternative disciplinary action against medics and new punishments for practising without a licence are among amendments proposed to a law governing the health sector.

Draft amendments to the Medical Practice and Dentistry Law of 1989 have been finalised by the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS) and will be submitted for review to the National Assembly, which is on a five-month legislative recess.

The existing law specifically refers to medical practitioners under the Health Ministry with the Health Minister being the supreme authority, and does not cater to the private sector.

It also clashes with the roles of governing entities that were formed in the last few years such as the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) and the Supreme Council for Health (SCH).

The amendments aim to unify all health care employees in the public and private sectors and to redefine the role of the governing entities, including the ministry, the NHRA and the SCH.

BMS chairwoman Dr Ghada Al Qassim told the GDN that it took a specialised committee, comprising health experts and legal advisers, months to draw up the amendments to cover key issues such as licensing of medics, a legal framework for practising medicine and alternative punishments.

“Amendments were made to make it easier to implement regulations issued by the SCH,” said Dr Al Qassim, who is a paediatric emergency consultant at the BDF Hospital.

“These amendments include the licensing process, duties and responsibilities of doctors, forbidden acts for doctors, the investigation process of complaints and lawsuits, the disciplinary process and alternative punishments, as well as the appeal process.

“It was deemed necessary to find alternative disciplinary punishments in harmony with the general strategy of the kingdom.

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“Other important clauses are relevant to the beginning and end of life issues and in general it was deemed necessary to highlight these issues which doctors face on a daily basis and put a legal frame to guide doctors in their practice.

“Punishments for the practice of medicine without a licence and the impersonation of doctors were also introduced.”

She explained that the existing law has three types of punishments when it comes to addressing disciplinary action; a warning, a suspension of up to one year, and revoking a physician’s licence.

However, she said such punishments will not improve a medic’s performance or aid in the overall standards of the health sector.

“What good is suspending a doctor from practice going to do?”

“Hence, in the proposed amendments, alternate punishments were proposed such as attending continuing professional development courses and working under supervision.”

She added that such alternative punishments would ensure doctors who were punished worked on developing their skills to improve the practice.

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