This document is made available to all members of Medical Council of Malawi upon their registration in terms of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act 1987. The Medical Council of Malawi therefore, takes the opportunity to congratulate each and every newly-qualified practitioner on the successful completion of his or her studies and entry into the profession. The Medical Council trusts that the information contained in this document will be of assistance and will form the basis for good communication between professionals and the Council.
1. Question: I have just paid an amount of money to the Council and am informed that this is a "registration fee". What does this mean?
Answer: The registration fee is a one-time fee only. Payment thereof confers professional status upon the practitioner and, therefore, the right to practise his or her chosen profession by having his or her name entered into the official register of professional persons who are members of the specific profession.
2. Question: Are there other fees payable?
Answer: Yes, and specifically the annual retention fee, payment of which ensures that a practitioner remains registered on an annual basis, with the concomitant privilege of being able to pursue his or her profession legally. Other fees that are payable in certain circumstances would, for example, be the fee in respect of the registration of an additional qualification, or registration in an additional category, or registration as a specialist, and the like.
3. Question: When is this annual fee payable?
Answer: The annual fee is due and payable by all practitioners whose names appear in the relevant register on 1 July of any year. So, for example, the name of a practitioner who registered on 30 June 2000 and paid the (one-time) registration on that date, appeared in the register on 1 July 2000 on which date an entirely separate fee, namely the annual fee, became payable, shall be required to pay annual retention fee for the ensuing year. On the other hand, the name of a practitioner who was registered on, say, 2 July 2000, did not appear in the register on 1 July 2000, in that case, the practitioner will only be liable for payment of the annual fee on 1July 2001. Bear in mind that the registration fee and the annual fee are two entirely unrelated and separate entities.
4. Question: Do I get a "discount" if I pay the annual fee timeously? Answer: Yes indeed, in a sense. If the annual fee which becomes due on 1 July next is paid before or on that date, only the prescribed fee needs to be paid. If paid after 1 August next, the prescribed fee plus a 50% surcharge will be levied.
5. Question: Once I am registered with Council and I continue payment of the annual fee, do I have any further legal obligation to Council? Answer: Yes. The Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, 1987, stipulates that every health professional who is registered in terms of the Act, has the obligation to advise Council of any change of his or her address as entered into the register. Failure to do so may lead to the erasure of a practitioner's name from the register and subsequent legal and professional complications. Please do not neglect to notify Council in writing of any change of address as registered with the Council. A physical and postal address must be registered. Also of vital importance is a reliable database of available human resources in the health professions. Such statistics are indispensable for strategic planning of health care at the national, regional and local levels. For these reasons, there is a legal obligation upon practitioners to furnish information in this regard to Council upon request. The information asked for is very basic and relates to the practitioner's work environment and the type of practise engaged in. Your co-operation in furnishing information for statistical purposes when requested annually by Council is essential.
6. Question: I now know that, as a registered professional person, I have to pay certain fees, keep the Council informed of changes of addresses and on participation in Continuing Personal Development, where applicable. But what is the Council? Answer: The Medical Council became operational in 1988. It is charged with the responsibility of registering all medical practitioners, regulating of medical training in Malawi and inspecting all health facilities to ensure that they meet minimum requirements in terms of standards.
7. Question: What does the Council do? Answer: The primary object of the Council is to assist in the promotion of the health of the population of Malawi. This, broadly speaking, is achieved mainly in the fields of education and training, and in terms of the regulation of professional conduct: Recognition of Professional Education, Training and Qualifications In terms of education and training, the work of the Council is the recognition of qualifications for registration purposes; laying down minimum standards of education and training required for achieving such qualifications; the accreditation of facilities for such education and training at all levels, i.e. diploma, undergraduate, internship and the conducting of certain examinations. Regulation of Professional Conduct The professional conduct duties are fully vested in the Council. These duties are and will continue to be discharged in accordance with strict legal principles, following upon formal complaints lodged with the Council against registered persons. The need for impartiality is self-evident and clearly implies the observance of every nuance and fact of legislation, as well as of the basic human rights of the public - but, at the same time, also those of practitioners. In addition, Council advises the Minister of Health and Population on matters within its competence and also communicates to the Minister information on matters of public importance which come to the attention of Council and the Boards. The Council should not be confused with professional associations, such as, for example, the Medical Association of Malawi. The Council is a statutory body and the country's official "keeper of registers". In order to safeguard the public, registration in terms of the Act is a legal prerequisite for practicing any of the said health professions. The associations, on the other hand, are voluntary bodies, established mainly to serve the interests of the relevant professions and their members.
8. Question: Why are there professional registering and regulatory bodies? Answer: The reason for the existence of Medical Council of Malawi stems mainly from the very nature of the professions. The essential character of a profession is that its members have specialized knowledge and skills which the public wishes to use. To enable the public to have access to practitioners who are competent to practise, a list or "register" of such practitioners is a prerequisite, since only those practitioners whose names are entered into the register may legally make this fact known to the public. The body responsible for maintaining the register, therefore, has two duties to discharge: To assure itself that practitioners admitted to the register are competent; and to remove those practitioners who are found unfit to practise. The maintenance of a register is, conversely, also to the advantage of those whose names appear in it, since this confers public recognition on the competent practitioner who will thus be able to command a reward for his or her services. A further characteristic of a profession is that it is self-regulatory and that non-professional authorities (such as governments or governmental agencies) do not dictate to a profession on matters of professional responsibility, education and training. It is, therefore, to be noted that the Council is an autonomous body.
9. Question: It is stated that the Medical Council has the power "to remove the name of those practitioners from the register who are found unfit to practise". This is surely a draconian provision? Answer: Not at all. Practitioners who remain within the bounds of professional propriety (as indeed dictated by the professions themselves), and who do not act outside the norms of serving the best interests of the public, have no concern with Medical Council of Malawi's disciplinary powers. Reference was made in paragraph 8 to the Council's legal and moral obligations to both practitioners and the public. This is best summed up in the legal maxim "audi alteram partem", dating back to Roman times which states the principle that "the other side must be heard". Any practitioner against whom a complaint is lodged with a Council, may rest assured that this basic principle in law is in all cases adhered to.
10. Question: I have heard of "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct", what are they? Answer: This is a pamphlet that spells out the way practitioners should relate to their patients, their colleagues and the public. The pamphlet also explains the "doables" and "non-doables".
11. Question: What other guidelines are there as to what is regarded as ethical and unethical behaviour? Answer: The Council makes rulings and regulations from time to time on various aspects of professional conduct in the light of the needs of society and changing professional norms. The professionals are kept abreast of the developments by the way of the Council's publication in the gazette and newsletter. The latter is sent to all registered persons. Other matters of sufficient import are made known to the professions by way of special circular notices as the need arises.
12. Question: If I need information about any aspect of my professional relationship with Council, who do I approach? Answer: Please feel free to get in touch with the Council by telephone or in writing at any time. Council's personnel will be pleased to assist you.