OPPOSITION TDS have criticised the government for trying to railroad through a new piece of legislation regulating the medical profession – and only giving them a day to read it before being asked to vote on it.
Almost all of the Dáil’s sitting for tomorrow has been reserved to pass the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2011, while the Seanad will be recalled for an unusual Friday sitting to give its own approval to the bill.
But despite the emergency sittings being pencilled into the schedule as early as last Friday, no details of the Bill were made available to TDs until they were sent the bill this morning.
When it was finally published today, the bill was revealed as being necessary to “address the current difficulty relating to non-consultant hospital doctor vacancies”.
The bill expands the provisions of a similar bill in 2007 to ensure a supervised registration and to adopt other measures encouraging non-EU doctors to work in Ireland, where there is a shortage of junior doctors.
The bill creates a new division in the register of medical practitioners where applicants can pass an assessment set down by the Medical Council, which will then assigned the doctors to suitable posts.
A note accompanying the bill said that non-EU doctors were reluctant to sit the current PRES exam for healthcare positions, which has a high failure rate and which is considered more geared towards recent graduates.
One TD told TheJournal.ie that the bill was being rushed through the Oireachtas so that it would be in place by Monday when the new intake of junior doctors are set to start work.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, backed by Fianna Fáil members, complained that the government had promised to publish and distribute the Bill on Monday, and that the Minister for Health had planned only to distribute the Bill tomorrow morning.
The Bill had only been sent around ‘early’, this morning, upon appeals by opposition TDs he said, telling the Ceann Comhairle:
You should use your good offices to reflect… that legislation should be circulated in good time, for proper scrutiny and careful evaluation in advance of debate.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett ruled Ó Caoláin’s contribution out of order.