Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
I thank Senator Devine for raising this matter. The Bill, as the Senator correctly says, amends the Health Act to give me, as Minister, the power to designate the HSE as the competent authority to compare the equivalence of non-Irish qualifications to the qualifications it sets for certain health professionals. These are professions which are not regulated on a statutory basis but which are regulated for the purposes of the EU professional qualifications directive. The professions which currently come within the scope of the directive and which are being considered for transfer are those of audiologist and environmental health officer. I am aware that in recent days concerns have been raised that a potential conflict of interest might arise, with the HSE acting as both the competent authority and the employer. In light of these concerns, my Department sought the advice of the Attorney General's office. The advice received was that providing an independent unit within the HSE to sign off on the qualification approval process would eliminate any such potential conflict of interest. It is my view that the body that sets the qualification requirement is best placed to compare foreign professional qualifications against the requirement and is perhaps much better placed than the Minister for Health of the day in this regard. However, the Senator has indicated her intention to table an amendment on Report Stage, so I will undertake to engage with her on the matter in advance of Report Stage to see if we can provide further information on this.