Rwanda Allied Health Professions Council (RAHPC) has appealed to Parliament to look into issues surrounding medical professionals who continue to operate without licence.
The medical council told members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth that the health profession was facing many challenges ranging from the way students study to the point when they graduate and are released into the labour market.
The challenges cited include overcrowded lecture rooms, insufficient number of lecturers and lectures, laboratories that are below standard and personnel who continue to practise illegally.
Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, the chairperson of RAHPC, told the MPs that though their organisation carries out inspections, their hands are tied in terms of how far they can go in penalising those who continue to operate illegally.
“We carry out inspections and stop those practising without licence but we always find out later that they are back. Our law is clear, the employer should also be penalised for employing unlicensed professionals. We have met the Ministry of Health officials over and over again but nothing has been done,” he said.
Gasherebuka said there was need for the ministry’s reinforcement since the issue of unlicensed doctors was present in both public and private hospitals.
The revelation shocked MP Petronille Mukandekezi, who suggested that the mandate of the council should be looked into since it was a matter of life and death.
“You talked about hospitals that use people who are not certified doctors. You told us that your mandate goes as far as issuing and withdrawing their professional licence but we can’t ignore the fact that these people are attending to sick Rwandans. Your commitment is to make sure that Rwandans get the health services that they deserve. Prescribing medicine when you are not certified to do so is as bad as deliberately killing someone,” she said.
The Deputy Chairperson of the National Pharmacy Council, Noel Rutambuka, said unlicensed doctors were still a challenge but that, so far, they were working with Police during inspections and arrests are made whenever necessary.
“In our first inspection in 2004, we saw many who were working without licenses and gave them a month to fix it. In 2015, the same issue came back and we penalised them. The resources to carry out inspections are limited because they come from councils so, in the end, we do only one year though we would have wanted to do at least three,” he said.
Jean Baptiste Ndahiriwe, a registrar with RAHPC, said there were still financial and human resource challenges.
“We still have a financial and human resource challenge. We are still building ourselves from scratch. We have about 12 new professions in the country that have no experts and that means that every time we need someone in that field, we have to go searching in the region and beyond to keep up with quality. This means that we are limited in terms of activities,” he said.
Ndahiriwe cited the issue of lack of proper management of health-related courses, saying the East African Community Standards and Guidelines required programme management to be done by an expert with a particular level of skills.
“In our inspection, we found out that some of the programmes are being headed by people who are not connected to them and have no knowledge of what is required by that programme at all because they do not meet the academic and professional standards,” he said.
The meetings between institutions and the commission continue today with the appearance of University of Rwanda officials.