Insurance rules for doctors who fly in for operations
Cosmetic surgeons and other doctors who fly in from abroad to Irish clinics will be legally obliged to be covered by malpractice insurance from the end of this year, Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed yesterday.
He said there is concern that some of these doctors, who may end up harming a patient, are not properly covered.
Legislation making this mandatory will be passed shortly.
Mr Varadkar was speaking at the unveiling of a series of patient safety measures, several of which are still at the proposal stage and will fall to the next government to progress.
Among the proposals is one to make it mandatory for hospital staff to report events that result in death or serious harm, he told the National Patient Safety Conference in Dublin.
This is set out in the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill, the general scheme of which was published yesterday.
It will also entitle all patients to automatic access to their health records.
"It will allow patients to have their information transferred when changing doctors. Patients often raise with me the fact they have difficulty getting records. I find that hard to understand," said the minister.
"This will enshrine their entitlement in law and include other health information on computers about them."
One of the key proposals is the setting up of an independent Patient Advocacy Service early next year to help patients progress their complaints.
This will be accompanied by a more simplified way of making a complaint, which currently can involve a patient having to take their grievance to several bodies and potentially end up getting nowhere.
"For patients and their relatives , the experience of making a complaint can be bewildering," said Mr Varadkar.
"We will simplify the process and look to extend the powers of the Ombudsman to cover clinical issues."
It is also proposed to adopt the policy of "open disclosure", where staff should be up front with patients following an adverse incident on a statutory basis.
And a new Patient Safety Office to oversee a range of areas will be established in the Department of Health.
It will have an independent patient advisory council, made up of healthcare staff and the public.
They will be involved in drawing up reports and overseeing trends that will aim to act as an early warning to avoid problems escalating.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will also have its remit extended to act as a watchdog over private hospitals and homecare services.
The proposals were welcomed by Roisin and Mark Molloy, whose baby son Mark died in Portlaoise Hospital in 2012.
They were instrumental in highlighting failures in its maternity unit and securing a Hiqa investigation.
"A patient can be left isolated and up against a brick wall. When we were trying to find answers to Mark's death, we went to the Ombudsman but he could not intervene," said Mrs Molloy.
"It was horrendous, but it will be a major breakthrough if patients have somewhere to go.
"It will take the burden off them and hopefully they will get answers."
Mr Molloy said: "If you are injured in the first place, you are already at a loss and low.
"It is a huge step in terms of putting the patient first."