The Committee on Rules and Judiciary acted Wednesday to move three bills forward to the full Senate for consideration. One bill was on nursing licensure, one on animal care and the third would broaden the range on who could legally pronounce a person dead.
None of the bills generated much opposition. They had all been reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services May 30 and favorably forwarded to Rules with recommended amendments.
The bill to allow for the pronouncement of death by registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in hospice settings did spark an outcry from Sen. Brian Smith, who is not member of the committee.
“A mistake is going to be made,” he said.
Smith indicated he believed the bill was the start of a slippery slope.
“Why don’t we allow the ambulance driver to make the pronouncement, and next the janitor?” he said.
Sen. Samuel Sanes took offense at that remark, saying it was an insult to nurses. He said a janitor’s job, like all jobs is important. However, he thought Smith’s comparison ill-advised. Nurses received extensive training, Sanes said, and have to be certified. Not making a distinction here would be a mistake, he said, adding, “We are extremely proud of all the nurses we have on the Virgin Islands. Let’s give them the respect that is their due.”
Sens. Janette Millin Young and Novelle Francis both said they initially had concerns about the bill, but after discussion and adding an amendment suggested by V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker; they were satisfied with the bill.
The amendment said that the death declaration could be made only by a nurse who was authorized and designated to make a declaration by the attending physician.
Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, who sponsored all three bills, emphasized that the bill only covered declarations made when death was already anticipated, such as for patients in hospice care. The bill was expected to use police department and health department resources more efficiently.
The bill calling for a minimum standard of care for sheltered animals received many comments from senators, but all were in favor of it.
The bill was “absolutely imperative,” according to Smith. He continued, “We cannot continue to keep treating animals like we don’t care.”
“Animals do need protection, ” said Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw, who along with other senators said that the agencies who would be responsible for implementing the mandates of the bill be properly funded. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs are the two agencies most affected.
Sen. Jean Forde said, “Right now Agriculture is underfunded and understaffed.”
The way domesticated animals are treated has changed in the Caribbean in recent years, according to Sen. Myron Jackson. He said animals that were once kept outside are now kept inside.
This bill too received some modification in the amendment process. The scope of the bill was broadened to cover not only animal shelters but pet shops, breeders and kennels. Fines to those who do not comply with the directives was lowered from $500 to $250 and would be given only after a 30-day warning. Also, animal shelters would be inspected only once a year instead of twice.
The aim of the bill concerning the licensing of nurses is to clear a bureaucratic bottle neck. Currently, nurses all have to renew their licenses in the same month. O’Reilly says this puts a burden on the Board of Nursing Licensure. The bill will have a nurse’s license expire on her birth month.
“Language is adequate and it makes a lot of sense,” Sanes said about the bill. He added that other processes concerning government employees should also be streamlined and allow employees and applicants to do much of the work online.