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Health Bulletin (14 June 2018)

The latest insights from our Health Law team. 

In this edition:

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Coroner urges for laxatives to be pharmacist-only medication

A South Australian coroner has recommended that laxatives be classed as ‘pharmacist-only medications’ following the death of a 28 year old woman.

Coroner Mark Johns acted to specifically draw the attention of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine to the excessive use laxatives. 

Mr Johns recommended that laxatives should only be available for purchase following consultation with a pharmacist. Ms La Bella, the deceased, weighed 35 kilograms at her death, and had allegedly been taking over 800 laxatives a day over a period of two years.  She had self-discharged from hospital 9 days before her death.

The coroner makes these recommendations under s 25(2) pf the Coroner’s Act 2003, suggesting that this may prevent or reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of a similar event.

You can read the coroner’s finding here.

AMA NSW supports safe access zones for women’s health services

On 24 May 2018, the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018 (“Bill”) passed the NSW Legislative Council without amendments.  The Bill proposes to make amendments to the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) by introducing an 150-metre exclusion zone around reproductive health clinics to stop patients and staff members being harassed or intimidated by anti-abortion protestors.  The change would bring NSW in line with ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, who already have similar legislation.

In a media statement, the president of the Australian Medical Association New South Wales (“AMA (NSW)”), Dr Kean-Seng Lim, stated that the AMA (NSW) "supports this because people should be able to have unobstructed access to healthcare facilities and be able to approach them without harassment.”

The Bill will now go to the Legislative Assembly for debate.  Read the media statement here.

Family Planning NSW targeted by hackers with ransom demand 

Family Planning NSW recently had its website hacked by a group threatening to release confidential data unless a ransom was paid. 

Family Planning NSW did not pay the ransom and the confidential data was returned to Family Planning NSW without further distribution to the public.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has since directed all health-funded NGOs to confirm to NSW Health that they comply with privacy and data standards. 

Read more here.

AHPRA releases new tool to help guide use of testimonials in advertising 

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (“AHPRA”) has recently launched a new tool to assist practitioners and advertisers understand their obligations about using testimonials and reviews to advertise regulated health services.

Testimonials as a form of advertising are prohibited under the National Law because they do not usually provide a balanced source of information.  The new tool includes information and flow charts to help clarify why testimonials are not allowed and what types of reviews or other feedback are permitted.

AHPRA’s advertising compliance and enforcement strategy commenced in April 2017 with the testimonial tool being the latest resource released by AHPRA as part of the strategy.

Read AHPRA’s media release here.  Access the testimonial tool and other advertising resources here.

Indemnity insurance changes possible 

A review of the Indemnity Insurance Fund (“IIF”) and seven associated schemes was recently completed and a report provided to the Department of Health.  The First Principles Review Report - which consulted with key stakeholders including medical indemnity insurers and medical professional groups - assessed the cost, availability and viability of the current Indemnity Insurance scheme.

On balance, the Report found there was merit in continuing the current schemes, however some changes were proposed to the High Cost Claims Scheme (“HCCS”).  Under section 30 of the Medical Indemnity Act (2002), an eligible HCCS claim can be lodged by “the practitioner of a medical profession.”  This has been interpreted broadly to include, amongst other groups, pharmacists and dentists.  The Review has recommended that the wording of the provision be amended so that HCCS claims can only be made by medical indemnity insurers on behalf of medical practitioners.

Guild Insurance, who has made the majority of claims in respect of health professionals, has stated that the proposed changes may result in increased premiums for health professionals, however the Report states that the likely impact is difficult to determine.  The Government is yet to respond to the Report, which can be read here.

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