1,700 medics face crackdown over competence rule
More than 1,700 doctors working in hospitals are failing to show they are maintaining their competence and skills to ensure patient safety.
Under the rules of registration, all doctors have to do continuing medical education, such as training courses and attending conferences.
This is to ensure they are treating patients at as high a standard as possible and are keeping up-to-date with developments in medicine.
However, Bill Prasifka, the chief executive of the Medical Council, said its investigation has found that many doctors are flouting this rule.
They tend to be mostly on the general register of the Medical Council and are working as locum doctors - where they fill a post on a short-term contract or are employed by agencies which supply medics to do shifts in various hospital units.
"The Medical Council does not have the power to just strike them off," Mr Prasifka said.
He told the annual meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) that if the Medical Council had to bring them before a fitness to practise hearing it would cost around €10,000 to €15,000 a session, with a potential bill of €20m to €30m, which it could not afford.
These doctors are at risk of being complained about by a patient or other body on the grounds of professional misconduct or professional competence and could end up with a severe sanction, he added.
The Council now intends to write to each of the doctors involved and also speak to the HSE about its responsibility to make these courses accessible.
The competence problem among doctors follows warnings by emergency consultant Fergal Hickey that up to 350 people a year may be dying due to the lack of intensive care beds.
IHCA President Dr Tom Ryan said the lack of critical care beds will worsen in the coming months.
Patients will have to be placed on life support in recovery rooms, theatres and even emergency departments because intensive care units are full, he warned. This increases risk of mortality.