Liberia: Proposed Public Health Law Threatens Regulator's Autonomy

opinion

Dr. Linda A. Birch: "The LMDC is an autonomous body established by an Act in March 2010, with exclusive power and authority to regulate medical practice within the Republic of Liberia, a mandate the LMDC continues to perform."

The Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) has urged the Senate not to pass the proposed revised Public Health Law, which is presently before that august body for action. The communication, signed by the Chairperson of LMDC, Dr. Linda. A. Birch, notes that the passage of the law, as it currently is, will compromise the autonomy of the LMDC.

Dr. Birch informed the Senate that the Council was not duly aware of the changes to the Act establishing the LMDC.

"The LMDC is an autonomous body established by an Act in March 2010, with exclusive power and authority to regulate medical practice within the Republic of Liberia, a mandate the LMDC continues to perform," Dr. Birch noted.

Her communication further informed the Senate that the entity was established to promote quality of health care through proper and adequate supervision in evaluation of the health services, health professionals and health institutions in the country.

"The LMDC is an independent body that collaborates with the Ministry of Health in implementing the National Health Policy. The current proposed public health law (Part 8) stating that the LMDC is autonomous with sectoral accountability to the Minister, contradicts the Act establishing this body," Dr. Birch maintained.

The proposal Act, according to the Ministry of Health, was necessitated by the fact that the current Public Health Law of Liberia, Title 33, has a life spanning over 42 years and provides for fines and fees that do not reflect current day economic realities.

"And that the law does not address new and emerging public health challenges such as emergency treatment, discrimination, mental health, nutrition, regulation of marketing of products for infants and young children, zoonotic diseases, non-communicable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, clinical trials, and complementary and alternative medicine. As a result, recent legislative enactments have been made to either amend or repeal certain provisions of Title 33 and the said enactments, while a part of the Public Health Law, are in separate documents."

However, for Dr. Birch and other LMDC members, if the law is passed as is, there will be no proper check and balance since the power to regulate the sector will be taken away from them.

According to Subchapter B of the proposed revised law, the Liberia Health Professions Council (LHPC) "is hereby established and shall replace the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) with its mandate and functions reviewed and updated herein as an autonomous entity of the Government of Liberia with sectoral accountability to the Minister of Health."

She warned that the current proposed revised law compromises the autonomy of the LMDC, and thereby has the propensity to devalue the health system if the LMDC were to report to the Minister of Health.

"Moreover, we are also concerned with the bulky composition, as most of the entities are not justifiably inclusive in the proposed law," Dr. Birch said. "We should be mindful that the LMDC is the regulatory body and, with such crowded composition, its decisions will be manipulated; and we strongly believe that the proposed law, if approved, compromises the integrity of the LMDC and thereby promotes complete public distrust within an already weak health system."

She concluded by expressing appreciation, were the LMDC and the Minister of Health to have the opportunity to review said proposed law before approval by the Senate.

The communication was forwarded to the Committee on Health to report to the plenary within the soonest possible time.

 

 

 

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