Lesotho recently joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Nurses Day. The day is observed around the world on 12 May, the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale who is widely regarded as the founder of the modern nursing practice. The day is celebrated to mark the contributions that nurses make to society. As the country celebrated the day, the Lesotho Times (LT) Editor, Herbert Moyo, recently engaged the Registrar of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), Flavia Poka, on the operations of the LNC, its achievements and the challenges encountered. Below are excerpts of part one of the interview.
LT: Please provide an overview of the LNC and its operations.
FP: The Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC) is the regulatory body established under the Act of Parliament No. 8 of 1966 to regulate Nursing and Midwifery practice and education in Lesotho. The LNC derives its mandate by the Nurses and Midwives Act No. 12 of 1998 to protect the public against unsafe practices by nurses, midwives and nursing assistants.
The LNC plays a major role in protecting the public at all times against unsafe practices and conduct by providing guidance to the nurses, midwives and nursing assistants to ensure that they render quality nursing care to all the people of Lesotho irrespective of race, religion, politics or social standing. It works diligently to ensure that nurses, midwives and nursing assistants are competent to practice and conduct themselves professionally according to the code of ethics guiding their operations.
The failure to provide nursing care that is congruent with the set standards of care can result in poor nursing care and adversely the health of the public.
LT: How is unprofessional and unethical behaviours defined by the LNC?
FP: There are so many malpractices that can be classified as unprofessional and unethical behaviour on the part of nursing staff. Examples include the failure to give required treatment to the client, the failure to keep accurate and complete records of all nursing care provided.
Giving confidential information about the client/patient to unauthorised persons and neglecting or delay to provide medical assistance to a patient also amounts to professional misconduct. Other examples are as follows:
- Failure to prevent injury or accident to the patient
- Theft from a patient or a deceased person
- Patient assault (physical, sexual or verbal)
- Arson and attempted murder
- Leaving the patient unattended
- Misuse of medications
- Forcing a patient to sign a consent to undergo procedure without providing information
- Practicing in a private practice without a private practice licence
LT: What is the procedure that must be followed in reporting alleged unprofessional conduct and who can report?
FP: Suspected cases of unprofessional conduct should be reported by either the patient, relative, managers, police officers or other members of the public to the LNC office in writing. The office will provide reporting forms to fill and these guide the person who reports and requires them to provide all the details where the incident occurred and giving the names or particulars of the persons involved and witnesses if any. Once a report has been submitted, an investigation which follow and it may take many months, depending on where the incident occurred and the availability of the people involved as well as the witnesses.
On completion of the investigation, a report is compiled and submitted to the Professional Conduct Committee. The Professional Conduct Committee will assess the report and determine if it is prosecutable. Thereafter a disciplinary hearing will be conducted against the health practitioner. Once the hearing has been conducted, the appropriate remedial intervention will be implemented and likely remedial interventions include the imposition of a fine, censure and removal from the register of practitioners.
No LNC officer has any influence on the outcome of the reported case as the disciplinary hearing is conducted by Professional Conduct Committee. In cases where a complainant wishes to withdraw a reported a case, it has to be within five working days after being informed about the date of a disciplinary hearing to avoid any inconvenience.
A criminal case which involves a nurse has to be reported to the police station and the LNC office so that such a nurse can be disciplined by the LNC and by the courts of law.
LT: Apart from allegations of malpractice by its members, what are the challenges is the LNC faced with?
FP: The LNC is worried by the mushrooming of illegal private practices which were never recommended to operate by LNC as a regulatory body. At most of these clinics, as they are termed, the LNC has discovered forged authorisations implicating the Ministry of Health and people with no nursing background actually offer services to clients Some of these facilities are owned by other categories of health workers who are legally not allowed to own such practices as enshrined in the Nurses and Midwives Act 12 of 1998. According to this act it is only registered nurse midwives who are allowed to open facilities but they can only do so after they have met all the criteria prescribed by the LNC. To rectify such, the LNC has sued in the courts of law and in some cases, the culprits were dealt with and punished in terms of the law. The public are therefore made aware that there are people who not registered nurse midwives who claim to have been authorised by the LNC to practice as they try to win the trust for the public with false information.