Rwandan medics have said they are keenly waiting for the implementation of the liability insurance law, which they say is their new year’s gift from the government.
In November this year, while addressing the senate, the Minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba said that the Ministerial Orders on medical liability insurance will be in place by January.
The law that seeks to ensure that health workers, as well as patients, are insured against any health risk while in hospital, has faced delays in implementation ever since it was passed and published in the Official Gazette five years ago.
According to Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa, the chairman of the Rwanda Medical and Dental Council, the authority responsible for regulation of medical and dental practice in Rwanda which has been part of the process to see that it is implemented, said that it is almost getting finalized.
He said that the consultations between the ministries of health and finance to see how it will be implemented are near conclusion and that the legislation will be in force “earliest” next year.
Rudakemwa explained that it will financially cover medics from damages that may occur to their patients during treatment.
“It is related to compensations made; because there is nothing criminal in what the medical professionals do while discharging their duties. It will protect them from the financial hardships that occur from court cases as a result of potential damages,” he said
In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Dr David Ntirushwa, the newly elected president of the Rwanda Medical Association, voiced the timeliness of the liability insurance and how they need it at such a time.
“Our profession sometimes is one where even if you do all your best you may find a problem has occurred and you may not find who has committed the mistake. You find that the healthcare professional has done everything and the patient has also done everything, but again there are some complications that still will occur to the patient. So, with that, it makes the health liability insurance in fact a must,” he said.
Ntirushwa also further said that it is very vital on the patients’ side. Giving an example of a situation where a patient may lose part of his body organs during treatment, he said there is need for such a patient to be compensated.
He also reflected on the fact that the medical profession in the country is growing and medics are now treating almost all conditions and diseases and to him, this growth can come with a rise in complaints that occur,
“As we do more, the risk also increases. If you look at what we could do for example in 2000 it is very different from what is being done now,” he said.
“Not very many people are going outside of the country for treatment, and this means that more people coming to us, more cases are coming,” he added.
Ntirushwa cited a number of circumstances that can lead to unwanted risks in hospitals including limited human resource leaves medics overloaded with work and work for long hours, a fact that not only affects their performance when working on patients, but also is a risk for their lives.
In addition, he said that sometimes the equipment the medics have may not be enough, a thing that also exposes them to the risk of having challenges when they are treating patients.
Ntirushwa also noted that there are high risk specialties like gynecology and obstetrics where due to many risks that are associated with it; many medics will avoid it if the liability insurance is not implemented.
“For example, you can treat a thousand women and all goes well, but one of them comes for delivery and she produces a child with a problem. You have treated 999 and it has gone well, but one lady may cause troubles to you even though you have done all. And you can find that she came with another problem,” he said.
Here, he said that there is need to protect such specialties, otherwise, people will refuse to go into them.
Among other things, Ntirushwa pointed at the risk doctors are exposed to in regard to contracting diseases from their patients during treatment procedures like surgeries.
He, for example said that he has taken anti-retro viral medication three times as he had to operate on HIV positive patients during his seven years career as a medical doctor. So in such cases, a liability insurance can help cover such ricks as contracting diseases from patients.
Dr Magnifique Irakoze, an interning doctor in gynecology and obstetrics said that the medical insurance is not going to encourage doctors to do mistakes, but it is going to help cover the medics in case something happens since mistakes are human.