Medical council chief’s remarks ‘disingenuous’

HEALTH Minister Micheál Martin launched a stinging attack on the head of the Irish Medical Council yesterday after Monday’s Prime Time investigation which found medical errors kill 2,000 people a year.

Mr Martin described as ‘disingenuous’, Professor Gerard Bury’s remarks that the Government had ignored the council’s proposals for a system of testing medical competence.

“He is wrong on that, and he knows it,” Mr Martin said on RTÉ radio.

Responding last night to Mr Martin’s outburst, Prof Bury said: “We have been making submissions to government for 15 years and our competence assurance submission dates back to 1998. It needs legislative force to be effective.”

Prof Bury said every doctor in independent practice should be monitored by colleagues on a continuous basis, but said a recent briefing by the Department of Health revealed legislation was 18 months away.

According to the Council, “as many as 600 Irish doctors could be below par, with 80 giving considerable cause for concern. However, no mechanism exists to identify them”.

Sheila O’Connor, chairperson of Patient Focus, Ireland’s national patient advocacy organisation, said the remit of the ombudsman should be extended to medical practice, and Mr Martin must make this a priority of health reform.

“It is very worrying that the medical profession does not take more seriously the damage that can be caused to patients. There is almost a rule of omerta [conspiracy of silence] operating, although that is changing.”

The Irish Patients’s Association wants the Council reformed by introducing a system of disciplining doctors without the necessity to remove them from the medical register.

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