Medical liability insurance is a complex issue - Gatete

The government could take up until March to complete consultations and feasibility studies to set up the country's first medical liability insurance, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning has said.
A doctor talks to a patient at Butaro Hospital in 2012. (File)
A doctor talks to a patient at Butaro Hospital in 2012. (File)

The government could take up until March to complete consultations and feasibility studies to set up the country’s first medical liability insurance, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning has said.

Amb. Claver Gatete was last week meeting members of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Petitions for consultations on how to set up the insurance scheme.

The scheme will insure medics and other health workers, as well as patients, against unintended health risks in hospitals by providing prompt compensations.

A law that sets up the scheme is one year old but officials say its implementation has proved difficult due to the complexity of the health sector.

“It’s more complex than any other laws we have implemented so far because it has a direct impact on our health. We need ideas; we need to conduct enough consultations because regulating healthcare is not easy,” Amb. Gatete said.

The minister said major studies to be made by the government before setting up the insurance scheme will include designing standards and regulations on how to deliver healthcare because people are likely to mention how they were violated while suing to get insurance benefits.

It also remains unclear whether liability would include healthcare providers and patients at the grassroots level such as the case of thousands of community health workers and patients they treat in their communities.

Standards guidelines

As he responded to the question of whether community health workers would be covered by the insurance scheme, the minister said that feasibility studies will give an idea of who will be covered.

“We will need standards and guidelines about how to apportion responsibility in case of mistakes at different levels of healthcare provision,” he said.

Meanwhile, the minister said that a study on the price of healthcare provision has been conducted and findings will be used to decide the price of insurance while setting up the medical liability insurance scheme.

“You can’t fix insurance premiums for this scheme when you don’t even know the price of healthcare provision,” Amb. Gatete explained.

Most senators agreed with the minister that exhaustive consultations are needed before setting up the scheme but tasked the minister to set a timeframe for the completion of the exercise.

Senator Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo said setting up the insurance scheme will put an end to a situation where nobody seemed to be ready to compensate people in case of medical accidents.

“The insurance scheme will help improve healthcare service delivery in our country,” he noted.

The Senate vice-president in charge of Legislation and Government Oversight, Fatou Harerimana, said setting up timeframes for different consultations was needed.

“The more we delay the scheme, the more government loses money in paying expensive compensations,” Harerimana said.

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