Why we need to keep tabs on the watchdog
Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30
They are bodies that can often have an elitist tone to their names.
But the statutory organisations that regulate professions like doctors, pharmacists and dentists are no talking shops and can have a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of the public.
A seat on the Medical Council or Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the professions' regulatory bodies, is much sought after.
Competition among working doctors or pharmacists to be elected or nominated can be intense.
Each body has its own secretariat of officials.
Officials carry out the routine work, such as the inspection of pharmacies. And they handle complaints which are made about professionals. But their councils have the ultimate control and authority.
Since the term of Mary Harney as Minister for Health, most of them have a lay majority on their councils. Ms Harney took the step after accusations that some decisions by professionals could be in their own self-interest rather than the wider public good.
In the case of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the council is governed by 11 non-pharmacists and 10 pharmacists. Nine of the 10 pharmacists are elected by their peers.
Shane O'Sullivan of Healthwave pharmacy is now asking that the composition be changed again and that commercial pharmacists not have a role in decisions which can affect a competitor's business.
This is ultimately a matter for the Oireachtas.
In the meantime, there is some reassurance that the staff at the regulator's office reacted swiftly to the ill-judged email chain among six elected members, which included a comment that the council should drum up guidelines to stop Healthwave's courier service.
In this case, the public good was well served.