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Significant proposed amendments to the principal Irish law governing doctors’ practice will be published in the first quarter of 2017, the Medical Independent (MI) has been informed.
A number of potential changes have entered the public domain and, according to the Department of Health, these “are being considered”.
They include, as first revealed by MI, an amendment to allow the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise (FTP) Committee to decide, in certain circumstances, if the names of witnesses or others giving evidence at FTP hearings could be anonymised while reporting on the hearing; an amendment to allow for early-stage mediation of complaints without the necessity of an investigation by the Council’s Preliminary Proceedings Committee; an amendment whereby internship equivalency is no longer a registration route for entry to the general division of the medical register; and an amendment to remove the requirement on doctors to establish internship equivalency to access trainee specialist registration.
A Department spokesperson told MI that the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions)(No 2) Bill is “currently being drafted”. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, and other helathcare legislation, to address a number of issues including the registration of medical practitioners and physiotherapists /physical therapists.
The Bill is “due to be published in the first quarter of 2017”, said the Department’s spokesperson. It had been expected to be published before the end of this year, as indicated in a written parliamentary response in June by Minister for Health Simon Harris.
Some non-EU doctors have been locked out of training posts pending anticipated reform. Non-EU doctors who qualified in jurisdictions where their internship is not deemed equivalent – or during a time-period before equivalence is recognised – are restricted from accessing trainee specialist registration in Ireland, irrespective of other qualifications they may hold, including College Memberships.
In recent years, this issue was consistently highlighted by Overseas Medics of Ireland (OMI) through its former general secretary Dr Shakya Bhattacharjee, who has since emigrated to the UK to access a training post in neurology.
Another affected doctor, Dr Wajiha Zia, a Waterford-based registrar in psychiatry, was recruited in 2011 from her native Pakistan in the midst of a crisis doctor shortage in Ireland.
Dr Zia, who passed the Pre-Registration Examination System (PRES) and is in the final stages of Membership exams at the UK College of Psychiatrists, told MI many doctors are “frustrated” at the pace of change and are planning to leave.