HEPATITIS TEST FOR DOCTORS
Sir. The recent decision by the Minister for Health regarding mandatory Hepatitis 13 testing of doctors is precipitate and ill conceived. The Minister's decision appears decisive and authoritative; however. I believe this directive is a major error of judgment.
This policy will create enormous difficulties. Non consultant hospital doctors usually hold employment contracts of six months as they rotate through different hospitals as part of their postgraduate training. Will they be required to undergo testing every six months? Will a doctor be refused employment if the test positive, even though the doctor is not working in a high risk speciality?
Why should consultants be excluded from this scheme? It makes no sense to exclude one group of doctors on the basis of age, experience and security of tenure. The Hepatitis 13 virus does not respect such boundaries. Will doctors be empowered to refuse treatment to Hepatitis B positive patients in order to protect their own disease free status?
There is a fundamental human rights issue at the heart of the decision. Doctors perform investigations and treatment on the basis of informed patient consent. This principle has been swept aside by the Minister, by coercing doctors to submit to testing without consent.
The medical profession should deliver an emphatic rejection to the Minister on this policy. If we refuse to co operate, this ill conceived directive is dead in the water. - Yours, etc.,