Proposed legislation regulating the licensing, practice and discipline of nursing and midwifery is awaiting debate in the House of Assembly.

The Nurses and Midwives Act 2020 came for a first reading in the House on July 21 and was Gazetted on July 23.

It would replace the 2009 version of the act, which required practitioners to comply with a code of ethics through the Virgin Islands Nurses and Midwives Council.

The new bill awaits a second reading, when Health and Social Services Minister Carvin Malone said he will explain its provisions.

The updated legislation includes information about “assistive nursing personnel,” a person who has completed an approved course of training and is enrolled and licensed to practice assistive nursing under the act. The 2009 act only specified the differences between a registered midwife, registered nurse, enrolled nursing assistant and “other nurse.”

The move parallels the HOA’s recent passage of the Medical Amendment Act, 2020, which would set specific qualification standards for medical professionals seeking licence to practise in the Virgin Islands. That bill, which still awaits assent from Governor Gus Jaspert, also allows for greater integration of alternative forms of medicine.

Per the new nursing bill, the council would have to keep track of specific details about a nurse or assistive nursing personnel’s qualifications, and the specific clinical environment where “advanced practice registered nurses” are licensed to work. These nurses would need to work under the supervision or direction of a registered health care professional.

Requirements

Applicants would also be required to provide new information when seeking registration as a nurse or midwife, including evidence they are “of good character” and in “good physical and mental health.”

Additionally, nurses would be required to give evidence of completing a basic professional curriculum from an accredited school of nursing. Advanced practice registered nurses also would need to provide “proof of knowledge in a specialised branch of nursing as the council may require.”

Applicants would have to give evidence of their ability to practise medicine without limitations in this jurisdiction and prove that they’ve practised their discipline within the past two years.

An application committee would review applications within six weeks of receiving them. Approved licences would be valid for two years, and then would need to be renewed.

Discipline

The 2020 bill also goes more into detail about disciplinary proceedings.

A designated “disciplinary committee” would be established by the council. It would investigate complaints about professional misconduct; poor professional performance; noncompliance with the code of conduct; unreported illness or disability rendering a person unfit to practice; mismanagement of drugs; and other issues.

The maximum punishment for practising without a licence would be increased from a $1,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment per current law to a $10,000 fine and six months imprisonment.

Knowingly hiring an unregistered nurse or midwife would also carry a maximum $10,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

The bill specifies that the penalties would not apply “to a person giving assistance to a woman in childbirth where the services of a qualified professional are not available.”

The House has not yet declared a date for its 14th sitting.


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