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End of the road for quacks in Somalia as health bill tightens noose on practice

Credit: The Stream

ALL MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS in the country will be required to get a certificate of clearance before they can engage in any medical practice, a new bill tabled before parliament this past week stipulates

The new Medical Health Professionals Council Bill 2017 which seeks to regulate medical practice and training in Somalia now makes it mandatory for medical practitioners to be vetted to ensure they meet the requisite professional standards.

In a move to regulate one of the most critical but grossly neglected sector, the Ministry of Health proposes the creation of the Council which will oversee the training of medical practitioners, licensing of medical facilities and discipline of medical health officers in the country.

No room for quacks

In a bid to tighten the noose on those who wish to commercialise the profession without due regard to standards, the Bill proposes fines and even a stricter punishment for those without any medical training.

Qualified but unregistered medical practitioners will be fine a $2,000 or face a jail term of not more than two years while untrained persons or quacks purporting to be conducting any medical practice shall be slapped a fine of $4,000 or a prison term of not less than two years or both, article 21 reads.

Health Minister Fowziyo Abikar Nuur said Sunday the Bill will go a long way in curing a sector which she termed as exceptional in the world. “In the world, it is only in Somalia where an 8 year old child runs a pharmacy and a 6 year old is a client. We are aware of expired medicine imported through the port and in the same time during the night, a new sticker is put on them. One can be alert from weapons but not a medicine dealer. The only way is to be alert is through laws,” the minister said.

The minister’s remarks lends credence to reports of import of expired drugs in the country and operation of pharmacies by traders who have no background in pharmacy training.

Medical centres and training institutions

All medical centres among them pharmacist and chemists, article 20 says will have to be registered by the Council to allow them operate in the country and that the license will be renewed after every two years. The Council will also have the power to conduct searches on health centres to ensure they meet the dictates of the law failure to which they will be closed down.

Medical training institutions have also been roped in by the new bill. Article 42 requires that training institutions must submit their training programmes and curricular to the Council for approval before failure to which they will not be licensed to operate. Any institution that violate this condition, the law says will be fined $2,000 or a prison term of between one and two years.

Medical practitioners trained in foreign countries will be required to get recommendation letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or from Somalia embassy in the country in which one undertook their studies.

Health Care Associations

Article 49  provides for the formation of registration of Health Care Associations noting they should be composed of at least 11 members, have a constitution which shall be submitted to the Council in addition to their medical certificates which stipulates which medical field they fall under.

Currently medical associations operate in the country but based on regulations largely developed by industry players.

Foreign health professionals will be granted interim registration licenses and limited registration of up to 12 months but renewable.

The bill also sets out general circumstances under which one can be found to be in violation of the law which include deletion, or change of information contained in registration certificates issued by the Council, providing health services in an institution that is not registered or being in possession of a fake registration certificate. Those who work in an unregistered health facility will also be deemed to have violated the law in addition to health facilities which offer services which they were not licensed to.

False pretense

Those who present false information in form of advertising, make-belief statistics and other false information aimed at misleading the public for gains will also pay for their sins, article 50 warns. Individuals will be fined $1,000 while institutions will have to part with $2,000. Additionally, individuals who employ persons who are not registered to practice will face a fine of $1,500 while institutions will be condemned to pay $2,000

The Council will be made up of 15 members drawn from the Ministry of Health, Higher Education, Justice Ministry, Somali Nursing Association, Somali Midwifery Association, Medical Training Institutions, Somali Lab Technicians Association, Somalia Pharmaceutical Association and Somalia Public Health Association.

Article 52 sends a strong message to persons or institutions which impersonate medical specialists or present in form of name, symbols or any other representations themselves as qualified personnel yet they are not. Individuals who commit this offense will be fine $1,500 while institutions will pay $3,000.

Parliament will be debating the Bill in the coming weeks.