Outdated public health laws to be reformed- consultations underway

Consultations to develop more updated and futuristic health laws got underway at Duke’s Lodge on Wednesday as Guyana prepares to reform its public health laws to bring them in line with international standards.  

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony

The country’s current Public Health Law has been in existence since 1934, and is considered outdated.

Addressing the consultation forum for a new Public Health Act, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony said the government is working to redress the “very old legislation of the past.”

Health Advisor-Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

We want something that is going to be updated, current and look forward to the future, because you don’t want a legislation to be that static…that after you gone through the legislation process (and that can take a while) you recognise that it is outdated,” he added.

An example of the outdated law, Dr. Anthony pointed out, is the clause which states that during a pandemic situation, the property of persons could be seized and burnt as a containment measure.

Some participants at the consultation

“But the world is evolving, and we have better understanding of many of these diseases…we have better ways of treating with them, and therefore we must apply these modern techniques…so as to make sure that we are all in sync with all the science that we have before us,” Dr. Anthony said.

The consultation was one in an ongoing series and included the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Ministry of Legal Affairs, and Attorney General’s Chambers.

Since 1934, human and other rights have evolved and must be taken into consideration when drafting the updated law.

Some of those participating in the consultation

“It’s not only the gap dealing with diseases, but also with rights because people’s concept of patients back then, was totally different from patient rights today, and if you look at mental health as an example, the legislation back then contemplate that mental health patients were a danger to society, and therefore you needed to put laws in place that protect society,” Dr. Anthony stated.

He said there is no preconceived notion when updating the law, however, best practices and what worked for others will also be taken into consideration in Guyana’s updated Public Health Law. This will be specially tailored to suit the needs of the country.

He said, “We have to devise legislation that are going to suit our unique situation, so while we might be able to look at practices that other countries have, and how they would have addressed particular challenges, we also have to tailor that, customise it to suit our unique needs.”

Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, said there was a previous attempt to update this law.

A new draft bill is expected within the next few months.

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