SVG adopts Charter of Patients Rights and Responsibilities
A written document of the rights and responsibilities of patients within this country’s healthcare system was officially issued yesterday.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and health minister Luke Browne were present at yesterday’s ceremony at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital to unveil the Charter of Patients Rights and Responsibilities.
Browne said that the document was “the first of its kind for St Vincent and the Grenadines”.
The 12-page booklet outlines patients’ rights under overall headings of access to healthcare services, medical consultation and decision-making, medicines, medical management and medical records, grievances and complaints and miscellaneous rights.
It also highlights 14 key responsibilities of patients.
“It is important for us to maintain the perspective that everyone is a patient or a prospective patient. What we are dealing with today is therefore a document for everyone,” the health minister said. “The publication of this Patients’ Charter is an indication that the philosophy of this government is to put patients first. They are the reason why our health system has evolved and is organised. They are the reason why the health system exist.”
Browne also said that the existence of the charter is a step forward and empowering for patients, as it is important that all patients are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
“This patients charter was not developed in a vacuum, we make the point right at its inception in the introduction that the charter of patients rights and responsibilities builds upon the foundation of rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
He added that the charter also attempts to achieve what is enshrined in the constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The charter recognises among other things, the patients’ right to privacy and confidentiality that should not be violated whatsoever, the right to a chaperone during any physical examination or treatment as far as practicable and the right to know the identity, role and professional standing of all the individuals involved in his/her care and treatment.
It is also documented that patients have a responsibility to accept all the consequences of his/her own informed decisions, to keep all medical or health appointments except where it is not possible to do so and to contribute to the maintenance or creation of a healthy environment, while avoiding practices which are detrimental to public health and safety.
“There is nothing new in this document regarding content. Why would I say that? Because this document is based on the values which guide the practice of all healthcare providers…” Simone Keizer-Beache, the chief medical officer said.
She described the charter as a reinforcement of the rights and responsibilities of the patients, recognising what is due to the patient by healthcare providers and the state.
Making reference to the ministry’s slogan, ‘your health, a shared responsibility’, Keizer-Beache said that the ministry has stressed the importance of an individual’s role in their healthcare.
“We are in this together. This charter is our MOU. Our memorandum of understanding, how we engage…the concepts are not new, just the presentation. Yes, there are challenges, but at times, we let these overshadow us…but refocus, we will continue to get closer to our goals,” the chief medical officer said.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in his feature address, affirmed that the healthcare system in St Vincent and the Grenadines was sound.
“The Patients’ Charter is to say to you, you have certain rights, which we are guaranteeing to you — and we are putting them out — but you have certain responsibilities,” he said.
He noted that this government spends a significant amount of money on healthcare. He also highlighted some of the successes that have taken place within the sector in terms of helping to save the lives of patients.
And Gonsalves thanked healthcare providers and people in the health ministry for the work they have been doing. He reiterated that there is “a sound system of health” in SVG and while there are some weaknesses, steps are being taken to rectify those issues.
A copy of the charter is expected to be mounted at all healthcare facilities across the country. The Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities can also be accessed via the ministry of health website.