If current medical council illegal, then no doctors registered -Hanoman
Stabroek News
February 2, 2002

City physician and former Guyana Medical Association president Dr Max Hanoman has challenged the assertion by Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy in another section of the press that the Medical Council of Guyana headed by Dr Walter Ramsahoye is illegal.

Dr Hanoman is also a member of the Medical Council of Guyana.

He accused the government of trying to control the council, an attitude, he said, no other Caribbean government adopts.

Speaking to Stabroek News Dr Hanoman said that if the council had been illegal since October with the recent passage of an amendment to the 1991 Medical Council Act, then the country's doctors have been illegally providing medical certificates on the strength of which the National Insurance Scheme provides sickness benefits. Also, he contended, no doctor could legally be called to give medical evidence as the legislation provides that only registered legal practitioners could do.

He also pointed out that the Ministry of Health recognised the legality of the council when he represented it at the Caribbean Association of Medical Councils meeting in November and was given a US$1,000 cheque to pay its membership fee. Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rudolph Cummings also attended the meeting.

Dr Hanoman also contended that the CMO attended the meetings of the council even though his attendance was mainly to ensure the registration of the doctors in government employment.

Dr Hanoman also questioned the section of the amendment that provides for two members of the public to be members of the Medical Council and for the doctors to sit on the council to be elected by the vote of the registered doctors.

A team of doctors appointed by Dr Ramsammy drew up the regulations under which the elections of the doctors are to be conducted, but Dr Hanoman pointed out that the requirement in the Act that the Medical Council should draw up the regulations had not been repealed.

About the attempt to control the Medical Council, Dr Hanoman pointed out that most of the doctors who will now participate in the elections are employed by the government and could hardly be expected to be independent as their jobs might be at risk if they took a position in opposition to the government.

Dr Hanoman's salvo signals another round in the long-running dispute between leading members of the medical community and Dr Ramsammy's predecessor Dr Henry Jeffrey. That dispute has been referred to the court on a number of occasions one of which resulted in a landmark decision by then Chief Justice Desiree Bernard. That decision requires government officials who are called on to undertake a process of consultations before making a decision to explain in writing the reasons for the course of action they eventually take. Dr Hanoman initiated the court action after Dr Jeffrey rejected one of the doctors the GMA nominated to sit on the council. Since that decision, the constitution has been amended to define what was meant by consultation.

The court's decision sparked a government-sponsored amendment to the bill to open up the election of the doctors to all members of the medical profession and to open up the membership of the Council to include members of the public and a representative of the University of Guyana Medical School.

The legality of this amendment was suspect and a compromise was struck which provided for a team from the council and representatives of the government to meet and draw up the regulations that would govern the elections. Those discussions never got off the ground as the Medical Council insisted that the representatives must be capable of making decisions without having to refer to their principals.