Press Release

Tanaiste rejects criticism of proposed Medical Practitioners legislation

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. today strongly challenged the critical commentary on the Heads of Bill of new legislation to regulate the medical profession which she published yesterday.

The Tánaiste said, “This proposed legislation represents a fundamental change which appears to have been glossed over. Under it, the control of medical regulation by doctors themselves will be over. That is as plain as day. The medical profession will no longer control the Medical Council. The medical profession will not police itself, by itself.

“There will be transparent, democratic accountability. The Council will be required to report annually to the Minister, and the Minister can specify at any time any information required to be included,for example, details of the number and nature of professional conduct hearings. These reports will be published and laid before the Oireachtas.

“Second, no doctor will have a veto over whether a professional conduct hearing will be held in public. The doctor may only request that it be held in private. The decision will be for the Professional Conduct Committee alone. This Committee will have a minority of doctors on it. The clear presumption is that the hearing would be in public. If not, the Committee has to be satisfied that ‘it would be appropriate in the circumstances to hold the hearing or part of the hearing otherwise than in public’.

“It would be wrong to leave the Professional Conduct Committee with no discretion but to have public hearings, since there could be circumstances where patients’ interests require privacy.

The proposed legislation also takes account of a doctor’s right to his or her personal and professional reputation.

“Third, the consultation period before the Bill is presented to theOireachtas will be sufficient. The issues in the legislation have been discussed for many years already and have been the subject of many reports and public debate.

“We have to move on now. The Government and I are determined to have the legislation enacted well before the general election. It is a centerpiece of reform. We have not come this far on this detailed legislation to allow it fall away.

“Two years ago this Autumn I was told I could not hope to meet the target of 1 January 2005 for the enactment of the legislation to abolish the Health Boards and set up the HSE. The target was met. And I am determined to achieve enactment of this legislation too.”