On 14 August 2012 the Department of Health published revised draft regulations for public comment , setting out an extended set of acts or omissions in respect of which the Nursing Council may take disciplinary steps against nurses.
Written comments must be submitted within three months of the date of publication and should be addressed to: The Department of Health (For attention of director: Public Entities and Management, Private Bag X 828, Pretoria, 0001.
Given the findings of recent reports such as the 1st Triennial Report of the Committee on Morbidity and Mortality in Children Under 5 Years and the report into maternal deaths that many infant and maternal deaths are avoidable and that practitioner conduct is a key determinant of survival, and given the media coverage of nurses abandoning premature infants, children and other ill people during strikes in 2011, the regulations could well herald a positive step towards more effective accountability for inaction and unprofessional/uncaring conduct.
Conduct for which nurses may be disciplined includes:
- the failure to assess, diagnose, treat or care for, prescribe, collaborate, refer, coordinate or undertake patient advocacy as prescribed;
- failure to maintain the health status of a patient under his or her care;
- failure to identify a patient correctly;
- failure or refusal to provide emergency medical treatment; and,
- the unlawful disclosure of patient information.
The regulations include a dedicated section expressly dealing with the conduct of midwives. Conduct of midwives and auxiliary midwives that may be prosecuted includes the general list applicable to all nurses, as well as: the failure to protect the name, person and possessions of a mother and children under his or her care, including the checking and monitoring at reasonable intervals of all forms of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions; and failure to keep clear and accurate records of the progress of the pregnancy, labour and the puerperium and all acts performed in connections with a mother and child.
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