Mandatory reporting laws pass without profession-recommended changes

Paul Hayes

27/02/2019 2:29:32 PM

The final opportunity for positive change to mandatory reporting legislation has been defeated, with members of Queensland Parliament voting against the RACGP’s proposed amendments.

COAG processes for laws such as this mean the Queensland Bill will impact all other state and territory laws (except WA).
COAG processes for laws such as this mean the Queensland Bill will impact all other state and territory laws (except WA).

Australia’s healthcare professionals will remain subject to having their health issues made public if their doctor believes their condition puts public safety at risk.
In recent months, the RACGP has been advocating on behalf of GPs for change to the current mandatory reporting laws.
The campaign was sparked after the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council’s proposed amendments to the laws in August last year. The RACGP did not believe the revised laws went far enough in removing barriers for doctors seeking healthcare.
The revised laws, put forward to Queensland parliament in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (the Bill), were referred to a parliamentary committee for further review.
The RACGP submitted to the committee and participated in the parliamentary inquiry, strongly advocating that the laws be changed to better reflect the Western Australian model, where a treating practitioner is not required to report a health professional under their care.
The parliamentary committee released its report in early February, recommending the Bill be passed without further amendments – which would ultimately result in no significant change to the current mandatory rules.
However, the parliamentary committee was not unanimous in its views, allowing the RACGP to submit recommended amendments to the Bill that would better support the health of GPs.
The amended Bill was submitted to the Queensland Parliament yesterday, where it was again defeated by a vote of 48–42.
While it was debated in Queensland Parliament, COAG processes for laws such as this mean the Queensland Bill will impact all other state and territory laws (except for Western Australia).
Speaking in Parliament, Queensland Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates argued that mandatory reporting ‘carries a punitive quality rather than compassion towards rehabilitation’ and the proposed amendments would better protect doctors and their patients.
‘As I said before, a similar model has been in place in Western Australia for a decade and the sky has not fallen in,’ she said.
‘We must do everything we can to protect patient safety, and that includes the health and welfare of health practitioners.’
The RACGP was joined by a number of other healthcare bodies in calling for practitioners to be made exempt from reporting doctors under their own care.
‘The laws [do nothing] for doctors with mental health and other issues to seek the help they need, due to fear their treating doctor will have to report them as a risk to patients,’ Chair of RACGP Queensland Dr Bruce Willett previously wrote for newsGP.
‘That will likely lead to doctors being unable to get the help they need – which could have terrible consequences.
‘Doctors work in a high-pressure environment, with a culture of feeling like we should all be perfect. That means that we often don’t seek help when we should.
‘We have lost too many of our colleagues to mental illness in recent years. We as doctors need to make a stand to ensure we do not lose anyone else unnecessarily. Putting barriers between life-giving help and doctors in need is exactly the wrong approach.’

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said he believes treating practitioners being from mandatory reporting fails to ‘adequately protect members of the public’.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the new legislation will provide doctors with a better guide when determining whether the mental or physical health of a doctor–patient represents a danger to public safety.
‘The Bill will deliver better health outcomes for patients and the public,’ he said.
However, Dr Willett believes the laws put undue pressure on treating clinicians to decide what issues are significant.
‘Treating clinicians may be forced to report things that perhaps do not need to be reported, and that will discourage medical practitioners from seeking vital help,’ he wrote.
‘Discouraging doctors from seeking help is a bad outcome – not only for the doctor, but also for their patients.
‘Doctors are human beings and have a right and expectation to receive treatment like any other profession, without fear of prejudice. No other profession is subject to these laws, not even those who have public safety in their hands.’

doctors mental health mandatory reporting Queensland

newsGP weekly poll Do you feel well equipped to recognise and support patients with eating disorders?

newsGP weekly poll Do you feel well equipped to recognise and support patients with eating disorders?



Login to comment

Dr Chris Kear   1/03/2019 12:31:27 PM

Early treatment is always better than treatment later in the illness. This legislation encourages Doctors to try and avoid seeking medical help when things are going downhill. In this way, it is directly against the interests of their Patients.