Wednesday, 7 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
540. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the long delay in fully enacting the amended Medical Practitioners Act; and if he will now ensure that the Act is fully amended given that the delay in the registration rule change may force non-EU doctors to leave the health services. [12311/03]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Act 2002 (No. 17 of 2002) came into operation on 1 May 2002. The Act was commenced and enacted in full on that date.
Under the provisions of the Act the Medical Council may prescribe rules relating to the registration of medical practitioners, the recognition of health care settings in which training may take place, the recognition of primary qualifications obtained from EU medical schools for the purposes of internship registration and rules relating to short-term temporary registration. The council must submit its draft rules for my approval and for laying before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The council has submitted four sets of draft rules for approval relating to the areas outlined above. I am examining the draft rules presented and I intend to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Act. To this end I have carried out consultations within my Department, with the Medical Council and with the training bodies. This process is nearly at an end and I hope to be in a position to decide on the draft rules in the near future.
I reiterate that no doctor has lost registration as a result of any perceived delay with regard to the rules. The Act makes provision for a medical practitioner who holds temporary registration, such as a number of non-EU doctors, and who has applied for full registration under the Act to have his or her period of temporary registration extended indefinitely until such time as a final decision is given in his or her application. It is incorrect, therefore, to claim that the delay has resulted in any doctor having to leave the health services.
The vacancy rate among non-consultant hospital doctors is less than 1%. The actual figure is 0.624%, which is based on 24 vacancies out of a total cohort of 3908 NCHDs. This vacancy rate would be the envy of any commercial enterprise and indicates the status of the health service as being an employer of choice. These figures should be read in the context of a 20% increase in NCHD numbers over the past three years, are remarkable when one considers the highly mobile nature of the NCHD cohort and are a testament to the Government's commitment to funding the highest standards of medical care and personnel for the health service.
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