Doctors, nurses cry foul as bill proposes jail for on duty negligence

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MUTARE: Medical personnel in the country will be jailed for 2 years or pay a fine of up to $5 000 for negligence on duty if the proposed 2017 Health Bill is passed into law.

Under the proposed Bill, health personnel including doctors and nurses if proven guilty of negligence, they will be fined up to $5 000 or serve a jail term.

But the Zimbabwe Nurse Association (ZINA) slammed the proposed Bill, saying it is silent on their rights while giving much attention to patients.

Contribution during a public hearing which was convened by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health recently, ZINA Provincial chairperson, Chiedza Mukwekwezeke, said the proposed Bill overlooked the fact that the caregivers also need to be “taken care of”.

“The Bill does not address all rights of the medical health personnel. Whilst it extensively dwells on the rights of the patients it overlooks that the caregiver also needs to be taken care of.

“It has sections that are fast to incriminate health personnel if they infringe the rights of patients and does not also protect health personnel from being sued,” she said.

Mukwekwezeke said Part iii Section 45 (4) of the Bill needs to be revisited.

Part of the section reads: “A health practitioner may refuse to treat a user who is physically or verbally abusive or who sexually harasses him or her.

“The section instructs me that I may refuse to treat the patients but it does not answer the questions such as whom should I report to when injured, assaulted or harassed by a patient, who will compensate me and who will take care of me. Some users may be mental patients,” she said.

Mukwekwezeke added that most district hospitals lack facilities that allow them to handle cases expediently and this cannot fall under negligence.

“While health personnel will be fined and jailed for negligence of duties, it should be considered that most hospitals lack facilities that allow for expedient and accurate handling of cases,” she said.

A local nurse also said bill has also contradictory clauses.

“While I am expected to immunize a child from infectious disease it should only be done with the consent of a parent, if I immunize the child without the parent’s consent I will be sued.

“At the same time if I don’t take action, I can be fined or imprisoned for exposing others to infection,” said the nurse.