Work is said to be underway to formalize the Patient Rights Bill which Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said will give those receiving health care more say on the services they are receiving.
His comments, which aimed at clarifying exactly what the Patient Rights Bill would include, followed a blunder made by Sherry Armbrister, Senior Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health, while addressing an international audience in Geneva, Switzerland.
Armbrister suggested that government was in the process of working on a Patient Rights Bill which would include the right of women to decide whether or not they want an abortion.
Armbrister’s comments came during a presentation at the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) last week Thursday, but Dr. Sands has since shot down this notion and outlined to Eyewitness News that there are new parameters of the proposed Bill.
“There are many components to it,” Dr. Sands noted.
“We’re talking about what is the right of a patient when they encounter the healthcare system. They would obviously have the right to the best quality care that a system can deliver, and the right to confidentiality of their information.
“These are things that have to be enshrined in law, not just that we talk about it, there must be repercussions in the event that any staff in the healthcare sector are to breach that confidentiality.”
Dr. Sands noted that the Bill will also include patient confidentiality and the touchy subject of end-of-life decisions.
“A number of things in the Bill of Rights is actually quite cutting edge,” he revealed.
“In The Bahamas we typically have to have discussions with family members about end-of-life decisions where somebody may have said, ‘I do not wish futile therapy,’ or ‘I do not wish to be put on a ventilator,’ but there is a massive gap in our legislative framework for dealing with matters such as that.”
The proposed Bill will also address the rights of the emancipated minor, he revealed.
“The management of the issue of at what point does a youngster become an emancipated minor,” he questioned.
“Certainly, we know that they can get access to post-natal care after they get pregnant and they can be responsible for the care of their infant, but what happens if they are seeking birth control pills and they are a minor or if they have a sexually transmitted infection and they are a minor?
“We now need to look at where The Bahamas is going to go with these discussions.”
While the Bill is in the pipeline, it will be quite some time before it reaches completion, Dr. Sands affirmed.
“It probably will not be on the legislative agenda this year. We have already five
health-related bills which will get in the shoot before the Patient Bill of Rights and we have not completed the process of ventilating this Bill which was put forward around 2016.
“Yes, it is important and has a lot to do with expanded roll out of National Health Insurance (NHI) services, and has a lot to do with the quality of care that we deliver to patients in our hospital. It is also a very aggressive piece of legislation, but it is not something that you can rush.”
Dr. Sands opined that the Patient Rights Bill might reach completion before 2022.