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Govt drafts legislation for the toughest of triage decisions

The Gibraltar Government is drafting legislation setting out protocols under which patients will be prioritised for the use of life saving equipment such as ventilators should the number of patients exceed availability. 

The Gibraltar Health Authority currently has a stock of around 50 ventilators and the legislation, should it be passed into law, will allow doctors to triage ventilators - crucial for treating serious cases of Covid-19 - in a scenario where there are more critically ill patients than ventilators. 

“We have to have that legislation in case we get to that moment,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday. 

“We expect that we have the right number of beds, we expect that we have the right number of ventilators for what we consider to be the eventuality that may come.”

But, he said, “this is not an exact science and in the event that we are wrong, we cannot find ourselves with 51 people needing a ventilator with 50 ventilators available and no law to enable us to decide who should have the ventilator.” 

“We need to protect the doctors who are going to make these decisions so that the decisions that they make cannot later be impugned or challenged in a way that exposes them legally.”

“That is why we need to have this legislation.” 

He added: “As these regulations will engage decisions, being made about the right to life, as contained in the first section of the Gibraltar Constitution, I will consult very widely before I agree that they should be passed.”

“Unfortunately, I do envisage that these regulations will need to be passed into law.” 

The legislation will set out the protocols on which doctors will base their decisions in terms of prioritising life saving equipment. 

The GHA has bolstered its stock of ventilators tenfold since the outbreak of Covid-19, from five in January to 50 as things currently stand, and is still working to procure more.