The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) is not an organisation I would normally find myself defending.
For far too long they have enjoyed a position of absolute power and privilege within the health system and so the Minister for Health, Mary Harney is right to insist on a new, more equitable, public contract with its members.
However, the insistence of a gagging clause in the new contract is just the latest example of an administration taking every opportunity to increase its powers of secrecy and control. Powers that are crucial for the manipulation of information in a corrupt state.
Here are some quotes taken from today’s Irish Times.
(Consultants) have to seek permission from new clinical directors before commenting in public on hospital services.
(Consultants) have to seek the approval of the clinical director before engaging personally in any further advocacy
…prevent consultants from divulging or discussing “hospital business” and information on staff or patients without authority except in the performance of their duty.
…that no-one else in the health service has the right to speak out publicly without official approval
Consultants’ traditional clinical autonomy will have to be circumscribed to a degree.
The aim here is to install a line of faceless unaccountable bureaucrats between doctors, and the general public in order to manipulate information about a third world health system rampant with corruption and incompetence.
Bizarrely, management is expected to claim that all this secrecy and control is for the patients own good, to protect them from rogue doctors like Michael Neary. The reality is, of course, that secrecy breeds corruption, incompetence and bad practice.