Bill to recognise doctors

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NINETEEN newly-trained medical doctors from the Divine Word University (DWU) will join the workforce following the passage of Medical Registration Amendment Bill yesterday.
When presenting the Bill (2021), Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS Jelta Wong said the Medical Registration Act 1980 was the law that regulated and registered all the different cadres of health professionals in PNG.
Wong said the law set out the requirement of health professional registration and the standard under which they were to practise.
“This law on the other hand gives confidence and reassurance to the public of the health professional’s expertise in delivery of safety and quality health service,” he said.
Wong said the law was amended because it restricted the registration of doctors to only graduates of the University of PNG (UPNG) and foreign-trained doctors.
“The law did not take into consideration graduates from other universities who may graduate in the future in PNG to be registered to become medical doctors,” he said. “This is one of the reasons the graduates of DWU-trained doctors cannot be registered.
“Amending the Act legislatively allows the medical officers graduating from DWU or any other universities that will be graduating medical officers in the future to be issued ‘provisional licence’ for training and practice under the Act.”
The sections of the former Medical Registration Act that were amended include:

  • SECTION 4 – Constitution of the board to include a registered medical officer from the Faculty of Medicine of DWU to represent its graduates;
  • SECTION 21 – Minimum qualification for provisional registration medical practitioner; and,
  • SECTION 33 – Minimum qualifications for provisional registration dental practitioner.

Wong said the amendment would fill the medical doctor’s workforce gaps and the Government could achieve its vision to increase the workforce by 2050.
He said currently there were 526 medical officers when 855 were required.
From the Health Department’s human resource information system dated Jan 2019; there was a total of 11,823 health workforce out of 16,247 total health workforce requirement.
Wong added that the department would continue to work on the Health Practitioners Bill 2021 which would regulate different health professional cadres and intended to establish an autonomous board that was required to create its own revenue and effectively address many legislative gaps in the current Medical Registration Act.
Prime Minister James Marape said that the statistics highlighted by Wong that there were only 526 medical doctors in the country “compels the Government to ensure that we register all doctors trained in our country”.
“This Bill is in the right space,” he said.
“Our country needs more medical doctors and more medical workers in the face of Coronavirus (Covid-19), in the face of potential diseases and pandemics into the future. “We need to train more medical doctors.”
Marape thanked DWU for stepping in and filling in the gap by providing training for medical doctors and workers.
“This Bill makes amendments to the existing Medical Registration Act that allows us to recognise degrees that are being offered by DWU,” he said.
“This Bill should be supported by both sides of the house because it allows for those doctors who are already trained, and in waiting, to be confirmed, given provisional licences and moved into the workforce.”