The Medical Council of Malawi is a non-profit making statutory body wholly subvented by the Government which was established by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act No. 17 of 1987. The Council became operational in February, 1988.
The overall objective of the Council is to set and maintain standards of health care in relation to premises, equipment and supplies as well as the qualifications and credentials of personnel employed at health establishments including their behaviour and conduct towards patients and clients.
FUNCTIONS OF THE COUNCIL The functions of the Council are:
- To assist in the promotion and improvement of the health of the population of Malawi.
- To control and exercise authority effecting the training of persons in, and the performance of the practices pursued in connection with the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of physical or mental defects, illness or deficiencies in human beings.
- To exercise disciplinary control over the professional conduct of all persons registered under the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act and practicing in Malawi.
- To promote liaison in the field of medical training both in Malawi and elsewhere, and to promote the standards of such training in Malawi.
- To advise the Minister of Health and information acquired by the Council relating to matters of public health.
POWERS OF THE COUNCIL
The Medical Council of Malawi has, inter alia, powers to do the following:
- To remove any name from any register or restore it subject to such conditions as the Council may impose.
- To appoint examiners and moderators to conduct examinations and approve certificates and charge fees in respect of such examinations and certificates a may be prescribed.
- To approve of institutions in Malawi for the training of medical and related personnel.
- To consider any matter affecting the medical, dental or psychological profession and make representations to the Minister or take any action as the Council considers necessary.
- Upon application by any person (whether such qualifications were obtained in Malawi or elsewhere) as being equal, either wholly or in part to any prescribed qualifications.
- To perform such other functions as may be prescribed or assigned to the Council by the Minister.
- The Chief of Health Services of the Ministry of Health as ex-officio member.
- 1 medical practitioner serving in the public service.
- 1 dentist serving in the public service.
- 1 medical practitioner representing the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM).
- 5 members who are medical practitioners or dentists representing the Medical Association of Malawi.
- 1 medical practitioner representing the College of Medicine.
- The Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General as ex-officio member.
- At lease 3 other members from the general public one of whom is a medical practitioner or a dentist in the private sector. THE WAY THE COUNCIL WORKS
The Council works through committees. At present there are five standing committees namely: Executive, Finance and Establishment, Education and Training ,Inspectorate and Registration and Disciplinary.
The Council's disciplinary functions are discharged by the disciplinary committee which is chaired by the Chairman of the Council with members appointed by the Chairman depending on the nature of the inquiry.
All the committees make recommendations to the Council which meets quarterly. The Registrar is the Secretary to the Council and every committee. The Council has a tenure of three years.
THE ROLE OF THE COUNCIL
It can be said that the general duty of the Council is to protect the public by, among other things, keeping and publishing the Register of duly qualified practitioners, and by ensuring that the educational standards of entry to the Register (and thus to the profession) are maintained. The Council may erase registered practitioners from the main register if it appears, by reason of their misconduct that they may be unfit to remain on the register. Council is responsible for all cadres except nursing and pharmacy.
(a) The Value of Registration
The Medical Register was instituted in order "that persons requiring medical aid should be enabled to distinguish qualified from unqualified practitioners". No person who is unregistered is legally qualified or duly qualified to practice. No person can be employed as a medical practitioner, dentist, paramedical or allied health professional either as self-employed person, or an employee, or in the services of any other person or organization, unless such a person is registered with the Council and holds valid registration certificates in respect of the calling.
(b) Privileges of Registration
Registration confers a number of privileges as only registered practitioners may prescribe or dispense drugs, issue valid certificates of death or other statutory certificates; and recover remuneration in respect of any medical advice or service. In addition, provisional registration enables a newly qualified doctor to be employed as an intern in an approved hospital and to apply in due course for full registration covering all forms of medical work.
Education and Training
(a) Council's duties in relation to medical and related education and training can be regarded as one of its primary functions in that it controls and exercise authority affecting the training of persons in the performance of the practices in diagnosis treatment or prevention of physical or mental defects illnesses or deficiencies in human beings. In addition, the Council has full responsibility for approving external examiners for Paramedical and Allied Health Professionals.
(b) Internship (Housemanship)
The Council prescribes the duration and mechanism for the internship (housemanship) programmes for medical doctors and clinical officers.
(a) Penalties In its disciplinary functions as in its other functions, the primary duty of the Council is to protect the public. The Act empowers the Council to erase from the Register the name of any doctor convicted of any felony, misdemeanour, crime or offence judged after inquiring by the Council to have been guilty of professional misconduct. The Council has powers as an alternative to suspend the registration of any registrable practitioner for a specified period or reprimand such a person.
(b) Protection of the public and the profession-Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct The Council under the powers conferred on it by the Act promulgated Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The primary function of the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is to protect the public from abuse by the medical practitioners of their professional positions, abuse of the relationship between the practitioner and patient and disregard of personal responsibilities to patients. The Code of Ethics also protects the interest of the profession against unfair competition from unscrupulous colleagues. The Council was not intended to and cannot act as a police force.
The Council is required to inspect all health facilities in Malawi at least once every year to ascertain compliance with minimum requirements in terms of structures, equipment and supplies and staffing. Registration and/or renewal of registration of premises is dependent on favourable reports from the annual inspections. Any health facility found short of the Council's minimum requirements cannot be registered. In addition, the Council is required to inspect every year hospitals and institutions responsible for training medical and auxiliary personnel for the same reasons stated above.
The Council grants private practice and premises registration licences if it is satisfied that the individual and the premises in which he/she intends to operate private practice meet the minimum requirements as laid down in the Council's regulations from time to time.
(a) Individual Licensing
For an individual to qualify for private practice he/she must have worked in an approved hospital for, in the case of a medical doctor or dentist, two years, in the case of clinical officers and medical assistants eight years in the case of Laboratory Technicians, Dental Therapists, Dental Technicians and Physiotherapists five years. (b) Premises Licensing Premises to be licensed for private practice should be in good order and state of repair and reasonably secure from unauthorized entry. No person issued with private practice license is permitted to operate more than one private practice and the practice should be operated sorely at the premises named in the licence.
Any change of premises should be cleared with the Council which will endorse such a change on the licence. Such premises should not be used for residential purpose except with the permission from the Council.
The goal of the Council is to attain financial independence obtained primarily from registration fees paid by registered practitioners. Currently, the Council relies largely on annual Government subvention for its work and operations.
The Secretariat is headed by the Registrar who is responsible for day-to-day administration and operations of the Council. There are 18 employees in the Secretariat which is currently housed Off Paul Kagame Road, in Area 6 ,Opposite Lingadzi Inn