Transfer of emergency powers to MoH is to be broadened to HSC

WHO should take charge of the management of Covid’s end game in the island and potential future emergencies dominated debate.

Deputy Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30431242)
Deputy Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30431242)

The recommendation to the Assembly was that proposals should be drawn up to eventually transfer powers away from the Civil Contingencies Authority into the mandate of the medical officer of health.

Deputy Gavin St Pier was successful with his second amendment to add checks and balances, and broaden the power base to include the committee for Health & Social Care.

The amendment also asked that emergencies were not viewed only through a health prism, but with consideration given to the economy, mental health, and the inequity between isolating in a flat compared to a house with a garden.

Deputy St Pier said the public needed to be reassured that the power would not rest with a single statutory official, and that there would be political oversight.

‘These powers, whether they are by regulation of the CCA, or whether by a decision of the medical officer of health under enhanced powers of the public health ordinance, are a severe restriction on the liberty and freedoms and human rights of individuals and our population,’ he said.

‘It’s been done for good public health reasons in the wider interests of the community and all the rest of it, but nonetheless we do need to take a great care, and we need to demonstrate to our community that we are taking great care in constraining in an appropriate way and checking the transfer of those powers.’

For Deputy Neil Inder the amendment was an improvement on the original recommendation, but he remained concerned that there was not enough emphasis on the economy.

‘I simply cannot allow one single health department to take utter control of the economy and people’s lives and groups and classes, I just cannot allow that to happen.’

Deputy Liam McKenna expressed confidence in the island’s health professionals to deal with emergencies.

He said they were highly trained, and would not become power-crazy overnight.

‘The people we have in place are wonderfully qualified people whose sole objective is to do no harm and do their best for people for their healthcare. We must realise that these medical officers of health are so important to our society... maybe we should let people do their jobs.’

The amendment was successful by 24 votes to 13.

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