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Health Bulletin 16 April 2020

In this edition: VCAT disqualifies podiatrist, AHPRA confirms flexible approach to COVID-19, TGA and COVID, Mandatory healthcare worker vaccinations in Vic, lowered flu shot age limit in NSW, National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards Consultation

The latest insights from our Health Law team:

VCAT disqualifies podiatrist for six months from applying for re-registration

AHPRA confirms flexible approach to COVID-19 to allow Fast-tracking of registration

TGA and COVID

Mandatory healthcare worker vaccinations in Victoria and lowered flu shot age limit in NSW

National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards Consultation

 

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VCAT disqualifies podiatrist for six months from applying for re-registration

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has disqualified podiatrist Phillip Lawson for six months from applying for re-registration after finding he engaged in professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct under the National Law.

The Tribunal found proven four allegations brought by the Podiatry Board of Australia (Board). It was found that with respect to a patient, Mr Lawson had engaged in professional misconduct by using his position to pursue a personal and sexual relationship, billing and invoicing for services not recorded or provided, and for failing to maintain accurate and adequate clinical records. Additionally, the Tribunal found that he had engaged in unprofessional conduct with respect to the same patient by providing services that were not clinically indicated or justified.

The Tribunal stated that the primary purpose of determinations under the National Law is to protect the public which is achieved by regulating the performance of the professional under consideration and by general deterrence to the profession as a whole.

While the Board sought a two-year disqualification, the Tribunal ordered a six-month disqualification instead after taking into account: Mr Lawson’s early admissions of some of the misconduct, the absence of any prior disciplinary history, his early undertaking to cease practice, and the time he had already been out of practice. The Tribunal also reprimanded Mr Lawson for his conduct.

Read the Tribunal’s full decision here.

 

AHPRA confirms flexible approach to COVID-19 to allow Fast-tracking of registration

The Australia Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has released an update indicating how it may respond to changes in the way that individuals are registered, in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19.

AHPRA has confirmed the potential to fast-track registrations of recently retired practitioners, or those with non-practising registration, particularly if the person meets recency of practice requirements.

In a recent COVID-19 update, AHPRA stated: “As an overriding principle, the Boards are prepared to be flexible in their approach although safety remains our first priority for National Boards and AHPRA. In this context, we are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.”

The full update, covering a range of frequently asked questions, is now available here.

 

TGA and COVID

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued a warning about illegal advertising of goods relating to COVID-19.

Therapeutic goods are broadly those which are used for preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease or injury in humans.This will include medical devices (such as artificial hips and blood pressure monitors), medicines and pharmaceuticals, and other goods that are represented to have a therapeutic use or benefit.

The TGA has released an alert advising consumers to be aware of false and misleading advertising and suggesting that they see a healthcare professional for medical advice when seeking to treat any symptoms, including common symptoms of COVID-19.This arises from recent anecdotal reports of the negative links between ibuprofen and COVID-19.

False and misleading advertising is illegal under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth), and can result in criminal or civil penalties.As outlined in our previous Health Insight, penalties for a breach of the TGA advertising rules can be severe.

Further information from the TGA on medicines and medical devices relating to COVID-19 is available here.

 

Mandatory healthcare worker vaccinations in Victoria and lowered flu shot age limit in NSW

Victoria recently introduced compulsory vaccination legislation through the Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Act 2020 (Vic).The mandatory scheme captures those with direct patient contact including nurses, doctors, paramedics, dentists, orderlies, cleaners as well as staff working in public sector residential aged care facilities.  This new law comes after last year’s devastating flu season which saw 69,000 confirmed flu cases and numerous deaths.

The upcoming seasonal flu, combined with the risks posed by COVID-19, have also led the NSW government to lower the age where pharmacists can administer flu vaccinations to children to 10 years, down from the previous 16 years. Although the flu vaccine is not effective against COVID-19, immunity against the flu is key in reducing the likelihood a person will be susceptible to other illnesses. You can read the New South Wales Minister for Health’s media release here.

 

National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards Consultation

The Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care (Commission) is seeking feedback on its recently developed draft National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health (NSQDMH) Standards.

The NSQDMH Standards aim to improve the quality of digital mental health service provision and protect service users from harm.  “Digital mental health services” means information, digital counselling services, treatment services and peer to peer support services delivered via telephone, videoconferencing, web-based services, SMS or mobile health applications.

Within the NSQDMH Standards there are three individual Standards:

  1. Clinical and Technical Governance Standard, which relates to the governance, safety and quality systems required to maintain and improve the safety and quality of digital mental health care;
  2. Partnering with Consumers Standard, which describes the systems and strategies to create a person-centred digital mental health system; and;
  3. Model of Care Standard, which describes the processes for developing and delivering digital mental health services, minimising harm, communicating for safety and responding to acute mental health deterioration.

The Commission has published the consultation draft of the NSQDMH Standards on its website and is seeking feedback from consumers, carers, clinicians, service providers, developers and any other interested stakeholders until 8 May 2020. 

Access the NSQDMH Standards and more information about how to provide feedback 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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