Health Insights

Health Bulletin (31 May 2018)

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

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NRL to keep some concussion breaches secret 

Last year the NRL issued fines to three clubs because they failed to observe the proper procedures when players suffered serious head collisions.  The NRL has asked clubs about incidents where players have exhibited signs of concussion but have returned to the field of play. These inquiries are not made public.

It is up to the NRL to decide which incidents are to be made public.  The AFL has stated that any breach (including those that attract fines over $2,000) by a club will be made public. 

The Australian Medical Association (“AMA”) disagrees with the NRL position.  AMA professor Brad Frankum has said that breaches to concussion procedures should be available for public scrutiny to increase pressure on clubs to properly manage their players.  He notes that team doctors have a duty of care, and must not make clinical decision with any form of internal pressure.

The NRL and AFL head injury policy statements are online. Read more about concussion in sport from the AMA and Australian Institute of Sport here.

Law Council of Australia makes submission on Drug Testing Trial Bill 

The Law Council of Australia has provided a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs regarding the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018. The Bill will establish a two year drug testing trial in three regions of Australia for 5000 new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance.

In its submission, The Law Council reiterates its concern that “the proposed measures had not been demonstrated to be a necessary or proportionate response to dealing with alcohol and drug dependency issues within the welfare system.”  The Council made a number of recommendations, including that testing be voluntary and that payment of Newstart or Youth Allowances should not be conditional upon the giving of consent.

The Federal Government seeks to commence trial drug testing for certain welfare recipients in Logan, QLD, Canterbury-Bankstown, NSW, and Mandurah, WA (02 May 2018) from 1 July 2018.  You can read the Law Council’s complete submission here.

AMA calls on COAG to urgently develop a national medical workforce strategy

AMA Medical Workforce and Training Summit was held at the Australian Medical Association (“AMA”) Victoria in Melbourne on 3 March 2018 ("Summit").  More than 80 key stakeholders took part in the Summit to discuss key medical workforce challenges and how to better meet community need.

A number of key outcomes were identified from the report of the Summit ("Report"), including:

  • Strong agreement that current workforce data does not support the establishment of any new medical school places, and for the Commonwealth to ensure that medical student numbers continue to be regulated to match community need.
  • Strong support for greater collaboration between Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments in planning workforce, training, and future care delivery models to meet community need.
  • Broad support for the development of alternative hospital employment models to better align service delivery and workforce requirements with training requirements and community need.
  • Support to explore the provision of longer-term employment contracts to create security of employment for all trainees, and, in particular, for trainees in rural and regional areas as an incentive to live, work, and train in those areas.
  • Strong support for the Council of Australian Governments ("COAG") to take greater responsibility to align government policy and medical workforce planning with the long-term health needs of communities, and for this to form part of the next National Health Reform Agreement.

Based on the key recommendations from the Report, AMA has called on COAG to urgently develop a National Medical Workforce Strategy to address significant workforce challenges and implement long-term work force planning to better meet Australia's health care needs.  It has been 14 years since the last national health workforce strategy was released.

Read the full Medical Workforce & Training Summit Report here.

New food labelling laws take effect in Victoria this month

As of 1 May 2018, fast food and supermarket chains in Victoria are required to display the kilojoule content of ready-to-eat food and drinks as well as the average adult daily energy intake of 8,700 kilojoules. 

The Victorian government passed the Food Amendment (Kilojoule Labelling Scheme and Other Matters) Act 2017 last year, which will require around 2,500 fast food outlets and more than 550 supermarkets within Victoria to comply with the new labelling requirements.

The change was introduced as a way to help promote healthier eating in light of the fact that the average Australian eats out more than four times a week, where one take-away meal may have over half of an adult’s daily kilojoule intake.  It is hoped that the new laws will encourage Victorians to compare the kilojoule content of different items and make more informed decisions.

Read the Victorian government’s media release here and the legislation here.

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