Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
Under Part 3, specifically section 30, an effort is under way to move competent authority status from the Department of Health to the HSE. Such a move has been raised with us by the environmental health officers. They have stated it would give huge power to their employer in determining what constitutes what an environmental health officer, EHO, is. EHOs have a wide range of further concerns about this proposed change and feel it would seriously affect their credibility and, more importantly, their independence as a profession. The chairperson of the Environmental Health Association of Ireland has expressed frustration that the association was not consulted on the movement of competent authority status from the Department of Health to the HSE. The move outlined in the Bill presents a blatant conflict of interest whereby the employer, namely, the HSE, can essentially dictate the constitution of the profession of one of its employees, namely, the EHOs. The move would also greatly diminish the independence and credibility of the profession, and it is very questionable from an industrial relations standpoint. Furthermore, a growing number of EHOs work within local authorities, including Dublin City Council, DCC. Many EHOs in Dublin City Council work in the areas of housing, public health protection, air quality management and noise control. Is it not odd that one public employer of EHOs, namely, DCC, must defer to another public employer of EHOs, namely, the HSE, to ascertain whether a potential employee is deemed qualified for the position? I ask the Minister to table an amendment on Report Stage to address this matter. We in Sinn Féin will propose our own amendment to this end on Report Stage.