The Irish Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, recently welcomed the government’s approval to draft a Health (Amendment) Bill 2022 to amend the Health Act 2007. The purpose of the new legislation is to incorporate key recommendations from the Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel Report. While the expert panel’s recommendations related to centres for older persons only, it is understood that the proposed new legislation will apply to all designated centres, including centres for persons with disabilities and children in need of care and protection.
The purpose of the proposed Health (Amendment) Bill is as follows:
- To introduce new powers for the Chief Inspector to issue advance notices, non-compliance notices and obtain urgent orders through the courts. This will provide a more agile and proportionate range of options for intervention to support compliance across the sector, complementing the current section 51 processes.
- To provide a new function for the Chief Inspector to establish and maintain a reporting mechanism for the collection of key data in relation to designated centres. The operation of the reporting mechanism, including the data to be collected and the frequency of collection will be determined by regulations under a new section 101A
- To reduce timelines for decisions initiated under section 51 to expedite the current system of imposing conditions on registration or cancelling registration and to maintain consistency with the current District Court Rules to bring motions to appeal.
- To provide a clear legal basis for the Chief Inspector to enter and inspect a premises which is unregistered if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that the business of a designated centre is being carried on.
In addition, it is envisaged that the new legislation will also clarify existing provisions. For example, it will:
- Provide an express power for the Chief Inspector to remove a condition attached to registration of a designated without an application from the registered provider
- Provide an express provision for the sharing of information by the Chief Inspector with HIQA
- Make it an offence to provide false or misleading information to the Chief Inspector, and place the burden of proof on the registered provider in relation to proceedings for offences if he or she is relying on the defence of reasonable excuse.
Minister Stephen Donnelly has said “…the proposed legislation is the first phase of a two-phased approach to reform the regulatory framework governing nursing homes. The second phase, a wider review of the nursing home regulatory model, due to commence later this year will consider a programme of longer-term strategic reform options, including pandemic learning”.
The proposed changes are welcomed and we will keep you updated on the new legislation. If you have any questions on HIQA regulatory matters, please contact a member of our Healthcare team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.