New laws to protect patients from uninsured doctors
New laws being steered through the Oireachtas by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar will protect patients by making it compulsory for all medical practitioners to have minimum levels of indemnity.
Although the Medical Council always seeks to ensure that medical cover is in place, there is currently no obligation in the Medical Practitioners Act for a medical practitioner to have medical indemnity insurance cover. As a result, there is no absolute guarantee that a patient or user of a medical practitioner’s services will be able to seek redress in the event of a medical mishap or negligent care from a medical practitioner.
The State provides medical indemnity to practitioners in public hospitals as standard. However, doctors carrying out work in private hospitals or clinics must provide their own cover. Even though the likelihood of encountering an uninsured doctor is very low, the consequences could be very serious for a patient if something goes wrong.
That’s why the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill will make it mandatory for medical practitioners who are engaged in medical practice to provide evidence of minimum levels of indemnity cover to the Medical Council, when they are applying for registration and when they renew their registration annually.
“Given the high cost of litigation and the long term consequences of some adverse events, this is very welcome legislation because it’s patient-focused and progressive,” Minister Varadkar said.
The main purpose of the Medical Practitioners Act in 2007 is to protect the public and to have a system of robust registration and regulation of the medical profession, in order to minimise the risk to the public and safeguard the health and wellbeing of people accessing health services.
“The Medical Council is doing an excellent job providing an efficient and accountable system for the regulation of the medical profession. It helps to assure the public that registered medical practitioners are both appropriately qualified, and competent to practise in a safe manner,” Minister Varadkar said.
“This new law will mean that medical practitioners won’t be able to register to practise unless they provide evidence of adequate indemnity cover. This can only be of benefit to patients.”