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 Header Item Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages
 Header Item Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Order for Report Stage
 Header Item Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Report and Final Stages

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 988 No. 7

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Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages

  Bill received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I thank Deputies for their interest in and contribution to the passage of this Bill through the Dáil. I am pleased that the key features of the Bill have been welcomed and supported by all sides during the debate. The provision for a five-year minimum term for gift vouchers and other protections contained in the Bill will be of real benefit to the very many consumers who give and receive gift vouchers. The amendments made to the Bill have improved it considerably and they are important provisions that I believe significantly strengthen the protections provided for in the Bill. I look forward to returning the Bill to the Seanad, to its enactment shortly thereafter and to having it in force in time for the peak Christmas buying period for gift vouchers.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl A message shall be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.

Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Order for Report Stage

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Report and Final Stages

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Amendments Nos. 1, 6, 11, 14 and 19 are related and will be discussed together.

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I move amendment No. 1:

In page 25, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 44 of Act of 1985

17. Section 44 of the Act of 1985 is amended by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (3):
“(4) (a) Paragraph (b) applies where—
(i) a registered dentist becomes the subject of an order under subsection (3), and

(ii) the Council has reason to believe that—
(I) the dentist is registered in another jurisdiction as a dentist, or has made an application to be registered as a dentist in another jurisdiction which has not yet been determined, and

(II) that order may not have come to the attention of the body duly authorised to perform functions in that jurisdiction that correspond to the functions of the Council.
(b) The Council shall give notice in writing to that body of that order and may, notwithstanding any provision of Directive 2005/36/EC or of the Regulations of 2017, provide that body with a copy of the order and copies of other documents relevant to that order.”.”.

These amendments address an issue relating to data exchange which my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, indicated on Committee Stage. At present, regulations in European Economic Area or EEA states are automatically notified when a sanction has been imposed on a registrant. In drafting the Bill, it was considered prudent to provide for this for third countries also, particularly in the context of Brexit. The Bill, therefore, provides that a regulator shall notify sanctions to its equivalent body in another jurisdiction if the regulator has reason to believe the registrant is also registered there. All five Acts provide a mechanism for the regulator to apply to the High Court for the immediate suspension of a registrant where this is considered necessary to protect the public. This suspension comes into effect while steps are being taken under the fitness to practise process. As indicated on Committee Stage, it is necessary to provide separately for exchange of data between regulators outside the EEA space in these circumstances. Accordingly, a separate provision in each of the Acts is required to provide for this.

  The amendments I am now proposing will provide that the regulators will be able to advise their equivalent body in another jurisdiction of an order of the court under the immediate suspension provision where the regulator has reason to believe the practitioner is registered in that jurisdiction, or has made an application to be registered, and that the regulator in that jurisdiction is not aware of the court order. There is already provision to notify in certain circumstances and we are adding to that a provision to notify under the immediate suspension provisions. This was largely welcomed on Committee stage.

  Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I move amendment No. 2:

In page 25, to delete lines 21 to 36.

I have submitted this and similar amendments on which we had a discussion on Committee Stage. We need to open up a dialogue about what exactly is being proposed. The sanctions of admonishment and censure in the respective Acts are considered relatively minor and would not automatically be published where the appropriate regulatory body considered it was not in the public interest. I do not understand what the problem is with the original legislation or why there is a need to make changes at this stage. There is considerable confusion and concern among workers across the health service who are affected by these changes, such as nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, optometrists, doctors and dentists. Why is the Minister seeking to change the primary legislation in this way? The regulatory body may take the view that it is not in the public interest but this almost places an onus on the relevant body to publish.

  I will give the Minister a small example of what I mean. Years ago, I represented a nurse who was accused of something that was minor but serious. When she committed the misdemeanour she was in the grip of an issue with addiction but she got her life back on track and, by the time she came before the fitness to practise committee, she had already come through it and was ready to go back to work. The committee took a very benign view but she was terrified that any reference to what she had done would be published, on the basis that she did not present a threat to anybody. She had had an incident but she had dealt with it and had come through it on the other side. Has the Minister had discussions with the representatives of the people who are going to be at the business end of this provision? Can he outline the rationale behind the provision? It seems to me to place an onus to publish. While we should always have a consideration of the public interest, we should also have consideration for the person who will have to deal with the consequences of this.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The Bill amends all five Acts to require regulators to notify both the HSE and the employer when a sanction is imposed on a registrant. Provision has also been made to allow the regulator to notify the HSE and the employer where a sanction is applied by a regulator outside the State and the regulator is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so. This provides a very important protection to the public in light of the increased mobility of health professionals globally. Deputy O'Reilly's amendment would restrict the Dental Council's powers to notify the HSE only when a sanction is imposed in this country and not outside.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly That is not my intention.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I understand the Deputy's intention and I am conscious that the Bill will go through to the Seanad, where will be another chance to have a look at this. From a technical point of view, this would be an accidental consequence of the amendment. It would also remove the express power to notify an employer when such a sanction is imposed and this approach would run contrary to the purpose of the Bill. None of the other amendments for consideration is attempting to remove these powers of notification in relation to the other regulated health professions so this amendment would treat dentists differently from all other health practitioners, though I accept that this is also not the rationale behind the amendment. For this reason, I cannot accept the amendment. On the broader point, however, the capacity to notify the HSE when a registrant has a sanction imposed on him or her outside the State is an important provision and, in the interest of equity, should apply to all health professions. I am not convinced of the case for not having such a provision but perhaps the Deputy and I could discuss it when the Bill goes to the Seanad, as well as the technical issues I have with the amendment.

Other provisions in the Bill require practitioners to make a declaration upon application for registration and every year after sanctions or convictions are applied outside the State. The Bill also provides the power for all five regulators to notify employers and the HSE of sanctions imposed in any country outside the State but this amendment would remove this power in the case of dentists. Public interest is always the test the regulators apply and both the Deputy and I agree with them on this. I am satisfied that the regulators understand the meaning of "public interest" but I am happy to tease the issue through further if the Deputy wishes to consider further amendments in the Seanad.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly For clarification, it was not my intention to isolate one grade, group or category, although I accept that is how it looks. Sometimes, however, it is not in the public interest.


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