Yesterday Health Minister Mary Harney and her department gave the Medical Council an undertaking that they would re-examine that aspect of the bill to address the concerns expressed by council president Dr John Hillery and registrar John Lamont.
“Compared to the definition of professional misconduct, the barrier is set much higher than it should be in the new bill and would not be in the interest of the public,” said Dr Hillery. “They understood that and assured us they are looking into it.”
However, after the meeting, Dr Hillery was not able to be optimistic about the make-up of the council as proposed by the bill. The concern of the council is that there would be insufficient medical members “to have the trust of the public and the profession and to carry out the workload delineated in an independent and appropriate manner”.
At present the membership of the 25-person Medical Council ranges from two to four non-medical members. However, the minister wants it to be made up of at least 50% non-medical members. Dr Hillery said, even though that feeling was voiced to the minister by the council yesterday, he did not think that aspect of the bill would change even after it progresses through the Oireachtas.
He also expressed concern at the lack of a universal democratic mandate in the election of members, as the new bill limits the areas of medical practice that can be represented by candidates in the electoral process. “For the future this may lead to a lack of involvement by individual members of the profession in standard setting for individual doctors and the profession as a whole.”