Fitness to practise inquiries are not taking place during the current lockdown period due to the number of parties involved in an inquiry, a Medical Council spokesperson has said.
Alternative options are being examined in the event of “extended social distancing restrictions” being kept in place, a spokesperson told the Medical Independent on 15 April. “The Council can still hold section 60 hearings remotely on an emergency basis if there is an immediate concern about patient safety.”
A section 60 hearing relates to the Council making a High Court application for an order to suspend a doctor’s registration, if this action is necessary to protect the public.
The Council said it is continuing its statutory role of investigating complaints against registered doctors. However, where possible, communications and requests of doctors are “being kept to a minimum” due to the ongoing pressures faced by the health service. “This applies to non-urgent matters and not time-sensitive or emergency matters,” according to the Council.
The regulator has long proposed legal reform so that not all complaints have to be investigated by its preliminary proceedings committee. An amendment to this effect is included in the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019.
The Council was “disappointed” that the legislation had not completed its passage through the Oireachtas in advance of the dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad, confirmed its spokesperson.
“We would be hopeful that this legislation will be passed early in the term of the new Dáil and Seanad once a Government is formed and the immediate issues facing the country due to Covid-19 have been addressed.”