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Health Bulletin 25 July 2019

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

Sydney web app can help alert nursing home facilities to flu outbreaks

Fake practitioners face jail and hefty fines as new regulatory powers come into force

Society of Hospital Pharmacists welcomes measures to reduce opioid-related harm

TGA strengthens regulation of stem cell treatments

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Amendment (Assisted Reproductive Treatment Statistics) Bill 2019

Michael Gorton AM finishes term as Chair of AHPRA

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Sydney web app can help alert nursing home facilities to flu outbreaks

After two years of development by the Public Health Unit at Sydney Local Health District, The InFLUenza outbreak Communication, Advice and Reporting app (The FLUcare App) enters a one-year trial phase at up to 30 Sydney nursing homes.  The trialing nursing homes will be required to record suspected cases of influenza among residents.

The FLUcare App is designed to recognise an influenza outbreak and to automatically notify key response personnel, including the nursing home manager, the district’s on-call public health officer and designated general practitioners.

Ideally, a central automated outbreak alert system will stymy the spread of influenza and reduce the number of cases resulting in hospitalisation and/or death.  The FLUcare App is also designed to provide nursing home staff with an “immediate response” guide.

Public Health Unit clinical director, Dr Leena Gupta stated that The FLUcare App could be adopted to other outbreaks, including gastro at childcare centres.

There appears a growing trend for the health industry to develop diagnostic and guidance apps for practitioners in the industry with increasing success rates. 

Watch this space.

For more information, click here.

 

Fake practitioners face jail and hefty fines as new regulatory powers come into force

Impersonating a medical professional will now receive a harsher penalty than ever before.  From the 1st of July 2019, anyone who pretends to be a registered health practitioner will face hard-hitting fines and even jail time due to a recent legislative amendment.  The amendments have come into force via the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Old), which applies to all states and territories, except Western Australia. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is responsible for investigating possible perpetrators under the Act.

Under this Act, anyone who refers to themselves as one of the “protected titles” must be registered with the correct board.  This includes medical professionals such as psychologists and physiotherapists. 

The new amendments have doubled previous penalty rates, with individuals now facing a fine of $60,000 per offence and corporate entities facing a fine of $120,000 per offence.  Furthermore, a person can now face a maximum prison term of three years per offence.  These penalties seek to deter potential offenders as well as provide the community with some reassurance. 

The community is encouraged to check the online register pf practitioners to ensure that the medical practitioner they are seeing meets national standards. 

If you are unable to find a practitioner on the register, please contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495. To find out more about the amended legislation, please click here.

 

Society of Hospital Pharmacists welcomes measures to reduce opioid-related harm

After the release of the Society of Hospital Pharmcists’ (SHPA) report, Reducing opioid-related harm: A hospital pharmacy landscape paper (Report) in November last year, the SHPA has welcomed a new Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) initiative. 

The TGA’s “Return Your Opioids” campaign centres around raising awareness with the aim of reducing opioid-related harm in the Australian community.  The campaign encourages people to return unused and unneeded opioids to their local community pharmacy, as strong medicines should not be kept around “just in case”.  The initiative also provides information on the serious risks associated with incorrect opioid use.

The SHPA’s Report found that over 70% of respondents reported that opioids were provided to patients to take home, even if they were not required in the prior 48 hours.  While the new campaign has been welcomed, it places the responsibility on the community to ensure safe opioid use. In light of this, the SHPA has also urged medical and health practitioners to consider appropriate opioid prescribing for hospital patients.

Read the SHPA’s media release here and access the TGA’s initiative here.

 

TGA strengthens regulation of stem cell treatments

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has commenced updated regulations under the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Excluded Goods) Determination 2019 that strengthen their regulation of unproven and harmful stem cell treatments.  The new regulations came into effect on 1 July 2019.

Currently, the only established stem cell treatment approved in Australia is haematopoietic stem cell (HPC) transplantation (using stem cells from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow), commonly used in the treatment blood and immune system disorders such as leukaemia.  Unproven treatments can be fatal, and may result in infections, allergic reactions or the rejection of the cells by your immune system.

The new regulations will maintain patients’ access to HPC transplantation.  However, they provide a more nuanced approach to less established treatments and pathways, where appropriate.  For example, patients will be able to access treatments in a hospital following consultation with a specialist doctor, or in treatment outside of a hospital where a special access pathway is established for patients for whom other established treatment options are unsuitable.

For treatments outside a hospital, providers will be required to adhere to the TGA’s strict requirements for safety, quality and effectiveness.

For further information on stem cell treatments, click here.

 

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Amendment (Assisted Reproductive Treatment Statistics) Bill 2019

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Amendment (Assisted Reproductive Treatment Statistics) Bill 2019 has been initiated in the Senate, and it is current before Parliament.

The Bill amends the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987 (Cth) to require accredited assisted reproductive technology (ART) centres to report their performance statistics to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and for the AIHW to publish these statistics for each ART centre.

The aim of the Bill is to provide consumers with information about the performance of each fertility clinic, to allow them to make an informed choice about their prospective treatment facility.

The Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill provides “currently, fertility clinics report annually to the Australian and New Zealand Assisted Reproductive Database, resulting in an annual “assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand” report, which only produces in industry overview of outcomes.”

The Bill proposes that the information published would include the number of women undergoing fertility procedures at the ART centre, the assisted reproductive treatments they receive, the age of each women treated, the number of resulting clinical pregnancies and the number of resulting live births.

Read more about this Bill here.

 

Michael Gorton AM finishes term as Chair of AHPRA

Russell Kennedy Principal, Michael Gorton AM has completed a 10 year term with the Agency Management Committee of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). For the last five years he has chaired AHPRA and been involved in many of the significant issues affecting health practitioner regulation across Australia.

Read the full news alert here.

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