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Health Bulletin 13 August 2020

In this edition: Warnings over buying prescription medication online, New “Compassionate Conversations” Guide for QLD, DHHS publishes its Guide for Food Businesses, Myths about the effects of 5G technology, nurse misappropriating medical certificates, Medibank penalised and Michael Gorton presenting at VHA Roundtable.

The latest insights from our Health Law team:

Warnings over buying prescription medication online

New “Compassionate Conversations” Guide for Queensland health professionals

DHHS publishes its Guide for Food Businesses – Food Safety Supervisors and Training

Myths about the effects of 5G technology on health soon to be busted

VCAT finds registered nurse guilty of misappropriating medical certificates

Medibank penalised for misrepresentations regarding policy benefits

VHA roundtable for health services boards with Michael Gorton AM

If you'd like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's insights, please sign up here.


Warnings over buying prescription medication online

After discovering counterfeit anti-anxiety drugs in the community, NSW Health have issued a warning to consumers to avoid buying prescription medication online.

Counterfeit Xanax, Mylan, Alprazolam 2mg and Kalma 2 drugs have tested positive to the presence of Etizolam.  The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have also advised that counterfeits may contain:

a range of undeclared substances in different combinations and dosages… Consumers are advised that substances contained within these goods may be classified as either prescription-only… Controlled Drugs… or Prohibited Substances…  Therefore, possession of these tablets may be illegal.

The TGA have noted flaws in codes, barcodes and logo placement on counterfeit products. Click here for more information on such flaws.

Any counterfeit products discovered attempting to enter Australia will be seized by Australian authorities and destroyed.

Consumers are cautioned that products provided from “unknown Internet sites”:

  • may contain undisclosed and potentially harmful ingredients; and
  • may not meet the same standards of quality, safety and efficacy as those approved by the TGA for supply in Australia.

To read the NSW Health warning, please click here.



New “Compassionate Conversations” Guide for Queensland health professionals

Clinical Excellence Queensland (CEQ) has developed a new guidance document for healthcare professionals using telehealth when dealing with patients and their families during end of life care.

Compassionate Conversations, a guide to communicating virtually, assists practitioners to prepare for difficult conversations held by telephone or audio-visual means, as well as suggesting various techniques to employ when communicating with bereaved family members. 

A guide has also been developed to assist practitioners where there is a language barrier and use of an interpreter is required.

The document has been developed by CEQ as part of the state-wide strategy for end-of-life care 2015 in Queensland. CEQ coordinates the Care at End of Life Project established under that strategy. The Care at End of Life Project comprises contributions from hospitals, health services, non-government organisations, primary health, consumers and other stakeholders.

Compassionate Conversations is available here. You can read more about Queensland’s approach to end of life care, and CEQ, here.



DHHS publishes its Guide for Food Businesses – Food Safety Supervisors and Training

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have published a guide to assist businesses and persons meet their obligations relating to the sale or preparation of food for sale in Victoria under the Food Act 1984 (Act). This is required to protect public health and maintain safe food handling practices.

Under the Act every food premises must be registered with, or have notified, their local council environmental health unit of its activities. Upon doing so, council will classify the business into one of four classes based on the food safety risks of the highest food handling activity and susceptibility to food poisoning of those being served. Class 1 is the highest risk level and class 4 is the lowest.

DHHS’ Guide for food businesses - Food safety supervisors and training outlines the requirements for food safety supervisors, explains when a business requires a food safety supervisor, how to choose the right food safety supervisor for your business and how to find the right training course for your food safety supervisor.

To access the guide, click here, and to find out more about food safety programs, click here.



Myths about the effects of 5G technology on health soon to be busted

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has released the details of its 2020–24 Electromagnetic Energy (EME) Program. One of the program’s main objectives is to provide the public with advice on how to safely use EME-based technologies like 5G. The EME program will meet its objectives by focussing on certain activities which include:

  • Continuing its research on the use of EME technologies and public health concerns
  • Engaging with international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation
  • Developing national EME safety standards
  • Providing information to the public on EME and health

Read more about ARPANSA’s EME program here.



VCAT finds registered nurse guilty of misappropriating medical certificates

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has handed down its decision finding a registered nurse, ED, to have engaged in professional misconduct for falsifying medical certificates to claim sick leave from two employers.

From 2010 until April 2018, ED was employed as a full time registered nurse in rehabilitation and general public and private hospital nursing environments.

In August 2019, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the Board) referred allegations of professional misconduct to the Tribunal under National Law.

The allegations concerned a period between June 2015 and February 2018, while ED was employed as a registered nurse at three hospitals.  During that period, ED presented false and misleading medical certificates to two employers on over a dozen occasions.  These instances included misappropriating a doctor’s stamp from one of the employer hospitals.

The Tribunal found ED had engaged in professional misconduct in respect of the misappropriated certificates, of which ED had admitted to.  The financial benefit derived from taking sick leave in return for the falsified certificates was repaid prior to the hearing.  ED received a suspension, reprimand and conditions imposed on their registration.

Read the Tribunal’s full decision here.



Medibank penalised for misrepresentations regarding policy benefits

The Federal Court has found that Medibank Private Limited, trading as ‘ahm Health Insurance’ (Medibank) breached the Australian Consumer Law by making false representations to members about the benefits offered under their insurance policies.  Medibank has been ordered to pay $5 million in penalties.

Almost 850 Medibank members holding “life” or “boost” policies were incorrectly informed that their cover did not include joint investigations or joint reconstructions.  At least 1,396 enquiries or claims were rejected, including for critical services such as spinal, hip and pelvic surgery, knee reconstructions and a range of other procedures. 

Additionally, despite Medibank identifying the omission of certain services in its claiming system in June 2017, a further 370 enquiries or claims were rejected until the conduct ceased in July 2018, before Medibank self-reported its conduct to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in August 2018. Since self-reporting, Medibank has notified approximately 130,000 current or former policyholders of the issue and paid more than $775,000 in compensation to affected members.

In addition to the $5 million in penalties ordered by the Federal Court, Medibank was ordered to pay $70,000 in costs for the ACCC.  Medibank also made an enforceable undertaking to the ACCC that, among other things, it will:

  • contact approximately 670 policyholders who have not yet accepted Medibank’s offer for compensation or further chance to claim;
  • pay to those policyholders a one-off payment of $400;
  • review its compliance procedures; and
  • amend its incident management procedures.

The ACCC’s media release regarding the proceedings is available here. A copy of Medibank’s enforceable undertaking is available here.



VHA roundtable for health services boards with Michael Gorton AM

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present a wide variety of leadership challenges and opportunities for Victoria’s health services, while also raising the profile of our health services boards. Following on from the recent leadership roundtables convened by the VHA for CEOs and Board Chairs, it’s evident there is much value in the exchange of ideas around this leadership challenge.

To continue this conversation, VHA invites you to join your fellow board members from across the state for an opportunity to hear from Michael Gorton AM, Alfred Health Board Chair and Principal, Health, Russell Kennedy Lawyers.

Members can register here.


Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

If you'd like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's Insights, please sign up here.

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