Health Insights

Health Bulletin (20 March 2018)

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

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Trainee doctors will get their money back for botched exam

The Board of Royal Australasian College of Physicians (“RACP”) has agreed to reimburse the full exam fee of almost $2,000, which is estimated to cost the RACP more than $2 million, after 1,200 trainee doctors were affected by a computer glitch that occurred five hours into the Basic Training Written Divisional Exam.

Trainees will now resit a paper-based exam or an alternative computer based exam on 23 March 2018.  Neither of these exams will be counted as an ‘attempt’ if the trainee does not pass the exam. The RACP will not charge trainees for resitting these rescheduled or alternative exams.

Read RACP’s statement here.


Taskforce appointed to implement voluntary assisted dying laws

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Taskforce met for the first time on 26 February 2018 and is chaired by former public advocate Julian Gardner.

The Taskforce will work with key stakeholders including aged care and health sector service providers to develop guidelines for voluntary assisted dying substances, clinical guidelines for the voluntary assisted dying scheme, as well supporting the Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services to appoint the new Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board.  More information about the Taskforce can be found here.

See our previous alert on the legislation passing the Victorian Parliament here.


Regulatory review of Schedule 8 opioid use and misuse in Australia

The Commonwealth Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (“TGA”) is in the process of conducting a review into a possible regulatory response to the potential misuse of prescribed Schedule 8 opioids in Australia.  Australia is ranked eighth internationally for daily doses of prescription opioids per million population.

The TGA acknowledges that strong opioids play a critical role in managing severe acute pain as well as pain experienced in many forms of cancer or other conditions, and therefore the response must not unduly restrict prescribing of these products.

Potential regulatory responses include changing pack sizing, restricting accessibility to the highest dose products, strengthening Risk Management Plans, reviewing label warnings and further education for health professionals.

Submissions for this review closed on 2 March 2018.  The TGA will now consider the submissions and make recommendations. 

Read more about the review here.


Commissioner investigates drug & alcohol services

The Health Complaints Commissioner ("HCC") has used her new powers to prosecute a person who is prohibiting from carrying out a health service in South Australia, who is alleged to have contravened that ban by carrying out a counselling service in Victoria.  Mr Mittiga was banned in 2015 from providing any health service in South Australia but has allegedly been practising in Victoria, in violation of that ban.  If convicted, Mr Mittiga faces a penalty of up to $38,000, two years imprisonment or both. 

In addition to this prosecution, the HCC will receive additional funding from the Government to conduct a wider investigation into private drug and alcohol counselling services in Victoria.  The HCC has received nearly 30 complaints relating to these private services since 1 February 2017. 

Find out more here.


Australian government responds to independent review of health providers’ access to Medicare card numbers

The Australian government has released its response to the Independent Review of Health Providers’ Access to Medicare Card Numbers ("Review").  The Review was commissioned following media reports that Medicare card numbers were available for sale on the ‘dark web’. These reports were referred to the Australian Federal Police, and its investigation is ongoing.

The Review recommended several changes and improvements to existing Health Professional Online Services access controls, including transitioning healthcare providers away from the Public Key Infrastructure certificates which enable access to Department of Human Services systems to the more modern and secure Provider Digital Access authentication; suspending inactive accounts to prevent inappropriate use; and introducing time limits for delegate arrangements.

The Government has agreed without qualification to thirteen recommendations and agreeing in-principle to the remaining recommendation.  Overall, the Government will fully implement seven of the recommendations by 30 June 2018, with a further four to be fully implemented by 31 December 2018 and one by mid-2019. The remaining two require no changes to current practice.

Find out more about the Government's response to the Report here.


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