Health Bulletin 13 March 2020

In this edition: Strong backlash to Medicare mental health compliance push, VCAT finds registered nurse found guilty of family violence engaged in professional misconduct, Queensland Government $27.25 Million Coronavirus Aid Package, Brexit - Implications for therapeutic goods in Australia and Government welcomes organ report

The latest Insights from our Health Law team:

Strong backlash to Medicare mental health compliance push

VCAT finds registered nurse found guilty of family violence engaged in professional misconduct

Queensland Government announces $27m coronavirus aid package

Brexit - Implications for therapeutic goods in Australia

Government welcomes organ report


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

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Strong backlash to Medicare mental health compliance push

In response to 341 compliance letters issued by the Department of Health to General Practitioners (GPs), more than 38,000 GPs have signed a petition started by Dr Gillian Riley seeking to clarify the Medicare Benefits Schedule and ensure that GPs can treat patients for both physical and mental conditions and bill Medicare items accordingly.

GPs who have received a recent letter from the Department of Health have been identified as billing physical and mental Medicare items for a single consultation more frequently than others.  Under the Medicare Benefit Schedule rules, a GP should not consult a patient and thereafter, claim more than one Medicare item, unless “it is clinically indicated that a separate problem must be treated immediately”.

A statement released by Dr Tony Bartone, President of the Australian Medical Association on 19 February 2020, states:

Patients don’t come to GPs in pieces, with mental health problems one day and physical another, they come to their GP as a whole person… When GPs see a patient, they treat the whole person, needing to assess both their mental and physical state….Accidental or not, this has created a perception among GPs that co-treating various conditions at the same consultation is frowned upon by Government…”

Dr Bartone has called on the Government to address the compliance issues raised by the Department of Health’s letters and to work towards providing a health system that enables holistic treatment of a patient.

To read Dr Bartone’s statement, click here.

VCAT finds registered nurse found guilty of family violence engaged in professional misconduct 

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has handed down its decision finding a registered nurse, known as GMR, to have engaged in professional misconduct following an instance of family violence.

In 2018, GMR was subject to a family violence intervention order and found guilty of assault after he assaulted his 16 year old daughter with a wooden rolling pin after seeing a boy enter the family home. 

In June 2019, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (Board) referred two allegations to the Tribunal.  Allegation 1 relates to the assault itself and allegation 2 relates to GMR’s failure to report that he had been charged with offences as required under the National Law.

The Tribunal commented on the relationship between family violence and registration as a health practitioner by stating that “while it may not have been so in the past, it has been rightly accepted in a number of recent cases (in other jurisdictions) that acts of domestic and family violence committed by health practitioners can give rise to professional misconduct or unprofessional conduct under the National Law”.

The Tribunal found GMR had engaged in professional misconduct in respect of the assault, noting previous cases which highlighted the importance of the health profession engaging exemplary behaviour in relation to family violence given they are often the first point of contact for victims.  GMR was also found to have engaged in unprofessional conduct for failing to report the criminal offences to the Board.  GMR received a suspension and reprimand for his conduct.

Read the Tribunal’s full decision here.


Queensland Government announces $27m coronavirus aid package

The Queensland Government has announced an Immediate Industry Recovery Package valued at $27.25 million to provide immediate assistance to help Queensland manage the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The package includes targeted financial support and advice, promotes Queensland locally and abroad through marketing and media activities, and provides counselling and support to businesses and students.

The package will help sustain jobs and businesses while work continues to contain the coronavirus.

Read more about the package here.


Brexit - Implications for therapeutic goods in Australia 

Following the United Kingdom’s (UK) departure from the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, the Department of Health has released information concerning the implications for therapeutic goods in Australia.

Transitional arrangements

Until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 (Transition Period), there will be no immediate impact on medical devices and medicines. The UK remains subject to EU rules and regulations and the EU-Australia Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) will continue until 31 December 2020.

End of transition arrangements

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will seek to prevent disruption to the supply of medical devices in Australia at the end of the Transition Period.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has enacted regulations imposing similar arrangements as under the former EU regulations. If these regulations continue beyond the Transition Period, it is expected that the TGA will continue to accept UK conformity assessment documents for both existing and new medical devices.

However, the TGA reminds sponsors that they must ensure that if they supply a medical device in Australia, the manufacturer of their medical device must hold a valid conformity assessment document.

Similarly, the MRA between Australia and the UK on Conformity Assessment and Certifications ensures that current medicinal supply will continue beyond the Transition Period.

You can read more about the TGA and Brexit here.


Government welcomes organ report

The Australian government has welcomed the Review of the Australian Organ Donation, Retrieval and Transplantation System Final Report (Report), which made 57 recommendations to current systems, practices and processes in the organ retrieval and transplantation sector.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council agreed to this review and engaged EY to conduct the Report. The purpose of the Report was to provide recommendations and evidence-based advice to assist in developing a national strategy, to ultimately optimise donation opportunities for maximum translation outcomes.

The Report found that recent donation activity has impacted the effectiveness and capacity of retrieval and transplant services within the healthcare system.

Three key priority areas for action were identified:

  1. The development of a national strategy to increase organ transplantation volumes;
  2. Governance strategies to develop and sustain the entire donation, retrieval and transplantation system; and
  3. The targeted national approach to improve organ donation and transplantation rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and those in rural and remote locations.

The Report’s findings and recommendations will be evaluated by a committee of senior government officials across all jurisdictions. Action is required to ensure the Australian health care system has the capability and capacity to facilitate every donation and transplantation opportunity.

The final report and a statement from all governments are available 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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