The House of Representatives, on Tuesday February 1, passed the Health and Allied Professions and Services Miscellaneous Penalty Provisions Bill (2010), which, among other things, provides for an increase in fines for persons who provide medical and support services without proper registration.
Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, who piloted the bill, pointed out that the penalties for violating the provisions have remained unchanged for decades, and no longer posed a serious deterrent against non-compliance.
“The purpose of the bill is to amend the several pieces of legislation administered by the Ministry of Health in order to increase the penalties under the legislation to a more realistic level, so as to deter persons from purporting to offer medical and support services without being properly registered or supervised by the relevant authorities,” he explained.
Additionally, he said it is intended to encourage conformity with the statutory requirements, and allow the portfolio Minister to increase these penalties, from time to time, subject to affirmative resolution.
Minister Spencer pointed out that the Bill also makes provision for the amendment of certain “archaic and inhumane provisions” under the Leprosy Act.
Mr. Spencer informed that a review of the legislation indicates that its provisions were mainly centered on the institutionalisation and treatment of persons with leprosy, also known as Hanson’s Disease, in a leprosarium. He informed that although there are still persons living in Jamaica with leprosy, the Government no longer operates a leprosarium.
“The main leprosarium, which was cited in St. Catherine, was closed in the 1980s. The commencement of modern multi-drug treatment renders the victims non-infectious and produces a cure, if taken as prescribed for the period required. As such, there is no need to isolate persons suffering from this disease,” the Minister outlined.
He noted further that the prevalence of the disease is deemed “very low”, at less than one case per 10,000 population, and is therefore regarded as having achieved elimination status, and is no longer a public health concern.
“The Health and Allied Professions and Services Miscellaneous Penalties Provisions Bill (2010), therefore seeks to facilitate timely and current legislative provisions to effectively regulate the system,” Mr. Spencer said. He told the House that ultimately, approval for the repeal of the legislation will be sought.
The Health Minister garnered support on the matter from Opposition spokesperson on Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, who concurred with the arguments proposed.
“In relation to the Leprosy Act, taking into account the present elimination status, we have no problems in looking at a repeal of that Act, and so, we support what is before this honourable House,” Dr. Ferguson said.
CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH