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Health Bulletin (10 December 2018)

The latest insights from our Health Law team. 

In this edition:

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Rural Doctors Association of Australia given provisional green light to negotiate on behalf of rural doctors 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently considering expanding the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) capacity to negotiate contracts on behalf of General Practitioners (GP) and other rural doctors.  The proposed extension to the RDAA’s powers would see a continuation of the RDAA’s current agreement allowing them to collectively negotiate on a state-wide level, and the additional authority to negotiate nation-wide, irrespective of the health system of a particular state.

The ACCC has suggested that the proposed changes would deliver better control over the terms of contracts for GPs, locums and other rural doctors.  In conjunction with this, collective negotiation and collective market power would facilitate cost savings. In this way, the ACCC believes that the public benefit is substantial enough to warrant what would typically constitute a breach of competition laws.

The ACCC will consider any submissions before making its final decision in December 2018.

Read more here.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently considering expanding the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) capacity to negotiate contracts on behalf of General Practitioners (GP) and other rural doctors.  The proposed extension to the RDAA’s powers would see a continuation of the RDAA’s current agreement allowing them to collectively negotiate on a state-wide level, and the additional authority to negotiate nation-wide, irrespective of the health system of a particular state.

The ACCC has suggested that the proposed changes would deliver better control over the terms of contracts for GPs, locums and other rural doctors.  In conjunction with this, collective negotiation and collective market power would facilitate cost savings. In this way, the ACCC believes that the public benefit is substantial enough to warrant what would typically constitute a breach of competition laws.

The ACCC will consider any submissions before making its final decision in December 2018.

Read more here.

New National Rare Diseases Framework announced

Last month, the Federal Government announced their development of Australia’s first Rare Diseases Framework and Action Plan in support of those people battling rare conditions.  The framework will receive $170,000 in funding as part of the Government’s Public Health and Chronic Disease Program.

The Government acknowledges that there are approximately 8,000 life-threatening or chronically debilitating rare diseases that affect an average of 5 in every 10,000 people.

The purpose of this new framework is to therefore provide more patients suffering from rare diseases with “a timely diagnosis, treatment and the best care possible”.  The framework aims to achieve this by supporting medical research into new life saving medications and technologies that provide patients with more physical, emotional and financial relief.

Read the Department’s media release here.

Conscientious Objection to Voluntary Assisted Dying

Patients suffering incurable and terminal illnesses or medical conditions may be eligible under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (Act) for access to voluntary assisted dying. However, under the Act, a registered health practitioner who has a conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying has the right to refuse to provide information about voluntary assisted dying, or to assist and prescribe the voluntary assisted dying substance (Substance).

A survey by the Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOGA) demonstrated only 20% of MOGA members would be prepared to write a prescription for the Substance, and an additional 36% would rather refer a patient to another specialist to write the prescription, than prescribe the Substance themselves. Overall, approximately 80% of MOGA members who undertook the survey would prefer to not be directly involved with the voluntary assisted dying process.

The survey indicated 92% of MOGA members supported the ability for practitioners to conscientiously object.  Therefore, it will remain to be seen how many individual health practitioners undertake the relevant training and become involved in the scheme and whether this has an impact individuals’ access to the scheme.  

To read the MOGA’s survey, click here.

Changes to mandatory reporting under the National Law

The Queensland government introduced the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 into parliament on 31 October 2018. 

Public submissions on the Bill closed on 23 November and the Bill will now sit with the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevent Committee (Committee) for detailed consideration. The Committee’s report is due on 4 February 2019.

The main change proposed by the Bill is to amend the National Law to introduce reforms to mandatory reporting by treating practitioners, to ensure health practitioners have confidence to seek treatment for health conditions, while protecting the public from harm.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging Queensland parliament to make further changes to the Bill to have the National Law mirror the protections provided to health practitioners under Western Australian law.  The AMA have stated that they want health practitioners to be confident they can “seek mental health care without fear of reprisal or threat to their medical careers.”

Read the AMA’s statement here and find out more about the Bill here.

My health Record privacy measures pass the Senate

The Federal Government has passed new My Health Record privacy and security protections through the Senate.

The Federal Health Minister Mr Greg Hunt stated in a Media Release dated 15 November 2018 that (Media Release) these privacy measures “further protect the health information of Australians”.

The new privacy measures include:

  • tougher penalties for those that misuse the system;
  • strengthening provisions to safeguard against domestic violence;
  • prohibiting employers from requesting and using health information from an individual’s My Health Record;
  • ensuring no health information or de-identified data can be released to insurers.

The senate has also passed amendments that law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s My Health Record with a warrant or court order, and anyone who chooses to cancel a record at any time will have that record permanently deleted.

Read the Media Release here.

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