On Friday 13 April 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council meeting of Australia’s health ministers unanimously agreed to amend the mandatory reporting laws in relation to registered health practitioners who seek treatment for impairments including mental health.
Since the introduction of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, registered health practitioners and students in all states and territories regulated by that scheme, have been required to report ‘notifiable conduct’ engaged in by other healthcare practitioners to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
The National Law defines ‘notifiable conduct’ in relation to a registered health practitioner to mean, in respect of impairments, a practitioner who places the public at risk of substantial harm in the practitioner’s practice or the profession because the practitioner has an impairment. An impairment is recognised to mean a person who has a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence) that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the person’s capacity to practise the profession.
On Friday, the COAG Health Council agreed to the implementation of a nationally consistent approach which provides exemptions from the reporting of ‘notifiable conduct’ by treating practitioners and subject to other jurisdictional formal approval in certain circumstances. Western Australia already exempts health practitioners who provide healthcare to other health practitioners from the mandatory reporting requirements, and these arrangements will be retained.
In a press announcement released the same day, Dr Michael Gannon of the AMA said that it cautiously welcomes the agreed strategy for mandatory reporting laws that emerged from the meeting.
The challenge ahead lies in carefully drafting the new provisions to both address concerns about the barriers for health professionals seeking treatment, and AHPRA’s mandate to protect the public. The COAG communique noted that the new legislation will specifically include a requirement to report past, present and the risk of future sexual misconduct and a requirement to report current and the risk of future instances of intoxication at work and practise outside of accepted standards. For full details, please access the COAG Health Council’s 13 April 2018 Communique.
Meridian’s Health Team has assisted many medical practitioners and other registered healthcare practitioners subject to notifications in respect of impairments or alleged impairments. If you wish to discuss any aspect of this issue, please feel free to contact Principal Daniel Davison or any of the Meridian Lawyers Health Principals.
Disclaimer: This information is current as of April 2018. These articles do not constitute legal advice and do not give rise to any solicitor/client relationship between Meridian Lawyers and the reader. Professional legal advice should be sought before acting or relying upon the content of this article.