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Health Bulletin (12 March 2019)

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

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CASA tightens rules on mercy flights

CSF are flights where patients and their families or carers are transported:

  • to a destination for non-emergency medical treatment or services; or
  • from the treatment destination back to the place from which they departed or to a destination where they reside.

CSFs are conducted by volunteer pilots free of charge and coordinated by a charity or for a charitable or community service. The new safety standards identify the kinds of aircraft that can be used, set out appropriate maintenance and operating requirements.  They have been put in place following consultation with community service flight organisations, pilots, the broader aviation community and the general public. CASA stated in a media release on 12 February 2019 that the “centrepiece of the new safety standards is a requirement for pilots to have appropriate flying experience before they undertake community service flights”. Read more about the new safety standards here and here.


Federal Government introduces several sports integrity game-changers

Two bills were introduced to Federal Parliament in February which would result in drastic changes to sports integrity regulation in Australia.  The bills seek to implement the Government’s response to the Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements (the Wood Review); the most comprehensive examination of sports integrity arrangements ever undertaken in Australia.

The first bill, the National Sports Tribunal Bill 2019, will establish the National Sports Tribunal, with an Anti-Doping Division, a General Division and an Appeals Division.  If passed into law, the Tribunal will provide a forum for the determination of disputes through private arbitration, or through mediation, conciliation or case appraisal, and will not involve the exercise of judicial power. Details can be found here.

The second bill, the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority Amendment (Enhancing Australia’s Anti-doping Capability) Bill 2019proposes to make changes to the ASADA Act to strengthen and streamline the anti-doping rule violation process and facilitate better information-sharing between ASADA and National Sporting Organisations.  In the second reading speech, it was said that the bill aims to “enhance ASADA's ability to combat the mounting sophisticated doping threats”. Details can be found here.

The legislative reform comes as the Federal Government has announced the establishment of a new body, Sports Integrity Australia, which would act as a “one-stop shop” for all sports integrity issues.  Sports Integrity Australia will ultimately will bring together ASADA, the National Integrity of Sport Unit and national sports integrity functions of Sport Australia.  In implementing the Wood Review, the government also announced it had become the first non-European nation to sign the Macolin Convention, a Council of Europe convention allowing for information-sharing between international sporting agencies to combat match-fixing issues.


Five health targets not on track according to recent Closing the Gap report

At its inception, the National Indigenous Reform Agreement contained six Closing the Gap targets.  In 2014 a school attendance target was added to the list, followed by an expanded early childhood target in 2015 to replace the remote early childhood education target which was unmet when it expired in 2013. 

According to the recent Closing the Gap Report, only two of the seven Closing the Gap targets are likely to be achieved.  The early childhood education target to have 95% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four year olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 is on track, as is the target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020.

The remaining five targets that are not on track are:

  1. To halve the gap in child mortality rates by 2018;
  2. To close the gap in school attendance by 2018;
  3. To close the gap in life expectancy by 2031;
  4. To halve the gap in reading numeracy by 2018; and
  5. To halve the gap in employment by 2018. 

In December 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to refreshing the Closing the Gap agenda.  COAG issued a statement outlining a draft strengths based framework aimed at prioritising intergenerational change and the aspirations of Indigenous people in Australia.  The updated framework is to occur through partnership between governments and Indigenous Australians.

For more information about current progress and future framework, read the Closing the Gap 2019 Report here


Health sector tops latest notifiable data breach report

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has recently released its quarterly report for the notifiable data breaches for the period 1 October to 31 December 2018.

The total number of notifiable data breaches was similar to the previous quarter, but did have a slight increase from 245 to 262.  In the vast majority of cases the number of individuals affected was less than 1,000, with 60% of breaches impacting less than 100 individuals.  On the other hand, only four of the 262 notifiable data breaches recorded last quarter affected over 100,000 people.

Health service providers again topped the list of number of notifiable data breaches when considered by sector.  Approximately 21% of the data breaches in the last quarter occurred in the health sector.  For health service providers, about half were caused by human error while the other half were as a result of malicious or criminal attack. 

The health sector is likely to frequently appear in these OAIC reports as the personal information the health sector deals with is particularly sensitive and more likely to meet the requirements to require mandatory notification of a data breach.

Read the full OAIC report and summary of key findings here.