Passage of Nurses and Midwives Bill makes way for establishment of council

The Nurses and Midwives Bill 2022 which makes provision for the registration and regulation of nurses, midwives and nursing assistants, was passed in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The new legislation, among other things, seeks to establish the Nurses and Midwives Council, thereby setting out the functions and powers of the body, allowing it to appoint committees.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, M.P

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C, said the bill is relevant, especially since the Nurses and Midwives Act of 2019 is “invalid, null and void, and has absolutely no effect.”

Opening the debate, he said the former APNU+AFC Government had claimed to pass the bill in the National Assembly, even though a no-confidence motion was successfully passed against the then administration.

According to the law, with the passing of a no-confidence motion, the government is expected to adopt a caretaker mode and restrain the exercise of its legal authority, the AG pointed out.

And therefore, on January 4, 2019, in the absence of the then opposition in the House, the move to pass the Nurses and Midwives Act of 2019, was a “height of lawlessness,” Minister Nandlall asserted.

“So, it was not even their bill that they were going and put through that bastardised process, it was a bill that they found on their desk when they assumed government in 2015,” the AG said.

Adding to the debate, Dr. Jennifer Westford, M.P, emphasised that the new bill is a drastic change from the ordinance of 1953.  She noted that the legislation is urgent and recognises each category of nurses and their class of work.

“I want to say as we stand here, the PPP/C Government is proud of those categories of nurses that we called specialists that were trained, we saw the necessity of giving them that recognition,” Dr. Westford added.

Meanwhile, a section of the bill creates requirement for registration and licencing before a person practices nursing, including specialist nursing or midwifery. Registration may be full or temporary.

The bill sets out the application process for licencing, and states clearly that the issuance of a licence may be refused, and a valid licence may be revoked or suspended.

Provision is made for the re-registration and also appeal against a decision on suspension, revocation, or non-renewal of a licence.

Registers will now be kept by the council and the list of nursing, and midwifery personnel who have been licenced will be published in the Gazette yearly.

Further, nurses, midwives and nursing assistants are required to renew their licences. Failure to do so within three months after the expiration date, will result in a fine being imposed.

Meanwhile, a five-member disciplinary committee will be established so that persons aggrieved by a nursing personnel’s act of professional misconduct could make a complaint.

It is clear that disciplinary action may be taken against nursing personnel convicted of an offence.

The bill also creates several offences and penalties including, practicing nursing and midwifery without being registered and licenced, fraudulently procuring or attempting to procure registration using false or fraudulent representation, and directly or indirectly holding oneself out as being a nursing personnel.

Additionally, the bill has provision for the minister to make regulation to give effect to the Act and for other specified matters.  Provision is also made for the transitional provisions to deal with the current members of the Council.

Moreover, the bill ensures that the funds of the council are being audited annually.

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