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Health Bulletin 28 August 2020

In this edition: changes to data sharing arrangements, updates to the NDIS Price Guide, Medibank purchases almost 50% of Sydney private hospital, survey tracks COVID-19 and medical training and VCAT upholds suspension pending AHPRA investigation.

The latest insights from our Health Law team:

Amendments to data sharing arrangements for quality and safety purposes

Updates to NDIS Price Guide

Medibank buys almost half of East Sydney Private Hospital

2020 Medical Training Survey tracks the input of COVID-19 on medical training

VCAT upholds doctor’s suspension pending outcome of AHPRA investigation

Supporting telehealth through regulation: a summary of changes


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Amendments to data sharing arrangements for quality and safety purposes

The Health Services Act 1988 has been amended to introduce a new Part 6B ‘Information sharing for quality and safety purposes’ from 27 August 2020. 

If your organisation is a public health service, public hospital, multi-purpose service, denominational hospital, private hospital, or day procedure centre, as well as other prescribed entities (together, health service entities), you may be affected.

Part 6B permits health service entities to disclose ‘confidential information’ to the Secretary or a ‘quality and safety body’ (which will be prescribed), and also to other health service entities where requested by the Secretary or a quality and safety body, for a ‘quality and safety purpose’. 

Quality and safety purposes means:

  1. collecting and analysing information relating to the quality and safety of health service entities;

  2. monitoring and review of the quality and safety of health service entities and associated risks;

  3. reporting to the Secretary or to a quality and safety body in relation to the—

    1. performance of a health service entity; or

    2. risk to an individual or the community associated with the performance of a health service entity;

  4. incident reporting and performance reporting in relation to health service entities;

  5. incident response, including case review,

in relation to health service entities.

If you have any questions about how these changes may affect you or your organisation, please read our Alert here, or contact our Health Law team.


Updates to NDIS Price Guide

The NDIS Price Guide has been updated as of 31 July 2020.  This latest amendment to the Price Guide is in response to the continuing pandemic and aims to ensure that NDIS Participants and Support Workers are able to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE).

Participants in NSW and Victorian will be eligible to use their funding for PPE if they receive an average of at least one hour a day of face to face daily living supports. Although many group supports have moved online due to the pandemic, assistance with daily living supports continue.  This includes cleaning services, supported independent living and support for Participants who are required to self-isolate or quarantine.  New support line items have been included so that Service Providers can claim for PPE when delivering face to face supports assisting with daily living in NSW and Victoria. 

New pricing arrangements have been included in the updated Price Guide, and will be in place from 29 July 2020 to 30 September 2020. 

If you have any questions about what you can claim under the NDIS Price Guide, or how this affects your organisation, please contact our Disability Team or Health Team.


Medibank buys almost half of East Sydney Private Hospital

As part of its broader strategy aimed at advancing the short-stay model of care, major health insurer Medibank now owns 49% of East Sydney Private Hospital. Medibank will invest an initial $8.8 million in capital equipment and operations to support its innovative short-stay model of care.

Medibank believes that the short-stay model enables patients to recuperate in their own home while supported by a multi-disciplinary care team, minimising the time spent in hospital.  To enable the hospital to scale to meet Medibanks’ proposed strategy, Dr Michael Stanford and Clare Douglas have been appointed to add sector expertise and experience.

East Sydney Private Hospital is a modern short stay hospital located in Woolloomooloo, Sydney.

To read Medibank’s media release, click here, and to read Insurance Business Magazine’s article about the acquisition, click here.


2020 Medical Training Survey tracks the input of COVID-19 on medical training

The 2020 National Medical Training Survey (MTS) is a longitudinal survey that aims to track the quality of medical training in Australia.

The survey seeks the anonymous input of trainee doctors to provide an insight into their experiences and flag potential issues.  The data is then used by key stakeholders such as colleges, universities and hospitals to improve and strengthen medical training.

Excessive hours, a heavy workload, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination have previously been highlighted as key areas of concern for medical trainees.  However, the current environment now raises additional prudent questions about the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on medical training.

The MTS therefore aims to utilise the data submitted to improve the quality of medical training and the support offered to trainees.

To find out more about the purpose and background of the MTS, you can visit the MTS homepage here.


VCAT upholds doctor’s suspension pending outcome of AHPRA investigation 

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has upheld the Medical Board of Australia’s (Board) decision to suspend the registration of Dr Michael Ellis pending the outcome of an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Over a period of some years, Dr Ellis made and shared statements on social media expressing and encouraging unsubstantiated views on vaccination and chemotherapy. More recently, his social media activity included the expression of similar views on treatment for COVID-19. Additionally, Dr Ellis had made statements opposing abortion, as well as denigrating and demeaning statements about certain members of the LGBTQ and Muslim communities. Acting on a notification, the Board exercised its power under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 (National Law) and suspended Dr Ellis in May 2020.

Despite Dr Ellis having subsequently apologised and removing himself from social media, the Tribunal found that the Board was justified in suspending him. The Tribunal agreed that due to Dr Ellis’s recent conduct, he posed a risk to persons in the way he practised medicine. While the Tribunal acknowledged that his suspension would not necessarily guarantee that Dr Ellis would stop his social media activity, it did attach importance to the fact that he would no longer be able to make and share social media statements with the authority of a registered practitioner.

In relation to Dr Ellis’s comments about the LGBTQ and Muslim communities, the Tribunal held that the dissemination of material by a registered medical practitioner to the general public that is disparaging, denigrating and demeaning could cause harm to the wider community. The Tribunal held that this too justified Dr Ellis’s suspension. A further reason underpinning the Tribunal’s decision was the fact that Dr Ellis apparently lacked genuine remorse demonstrated by his repeated attempts to minimise the seriousness of his conduct when giving evidence.

Read the Tribunal’s full decision here.


Supporting telehealth through regulation: a summary of changes

Amongst clinicians, the concept of telehealth is broad and encompasses any transfer of information electronically - synchronously (eg. by video or phone consult), or asynchronously (eg. by email or text message). The RACGP has defined telehealth as ‘a method of delivering healthcare that involves the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to transmit audio, images and/or data between a patient and a healthcare provider.’

When considering relevant regulations or guidelines, it must first be understood what form of ‘telehealth’ they apply to, or whether they apply broadly. For example, under the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS), the term ‘telehealth’ refers to video consults only, not consults by phone.

Recent regulatory changes facilitate the use of both video and phone consults (remote consults). Some of these changes are temporary, in response to the pandemic – others are permanent and pre-dated it.

Read the full article here



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