Varadkar to grant Hiqa new powers over private hospitals
The country's patient safety watchdog is to be given powers to monitor and investigate private hospitals as well as cosmetic surgery clinics.
The announcement will be made today by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who has instructed officials to draw up the Heads of a Bill to give new powers to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
Currently, it is confined to inspecting and investigating public hospitals, leaving the entire private sector, including cosmetic surgery clinics, to self-police their standards.
A spokesman for the minister pointed to problems that have arisen in cosmetic surgery clinics in recent years - including the use of faulty breast implants in a number of women who had augmentation surgery.
Mr Varadkar said: "There is a very strong case to be made to extend Hiqa's powers into the private sector, allowing it to set and monitor standards, and to undertake investigations where necessary.
"My department will now draft the Heads of a Bill for Cabinet approval to amend the Health Act 2007 and extend Hiqa's powers."
He added: "This will help to alleviate public concerns about the safety and quality of some services which are provided in the private sector or independently of the public health service, such as certain cosmetic surgery procedures."
Extending Hiqa's powers was a logical step on the way to a full licensing system for public and private hospitals, he added.
Hiqa is also to be given an oversight role for research ethics committees for clinical trials involving medicines and medical devices.
"This new oversight role will help to ensure high standards of research ethics approval, and will promote and protect the rights of patients," Mr Varadkar added.
It will help make Ireland a more attractive destination for clinical trials.
Hiqa currently has powers to investigate public and private nursing homes.
It has produced a number of highly critical reports on public hospitals.