Queensland Parliament recommends passing mandatory reporting legislation

Amanda Lyons

5/02/2019 2:48:34 PM

The RACGP is extremely disappointed in the decision, which flies in the face of the college’s advocacy on the issue and multiple submissions from the medical community.

Processes for laws such as this mean the Queensland bill will direct all other state and territory laws.
Processes for laws such as this mean the Queensland bill will direct all other state and territory laws.

The Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee (the Committee) has presented its final report on The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (the Bill), recommending no significant changes to the mandatory reporting laws for medical practitioners.
This decision comes despite strong advocacy from the RACGP and a number of other healthcare bodies – including the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the Australian Medical Association – to make practitioners exempt from reporting doctors under their own care, in line with the model followed in Western Australia.
‘It’s an unfortunate decision,’ Dr Bruce Willett, Chair of RACGP Queensland, told newsGP.
‘I think it creates the problem it’s trying to solve.’
The RACGP provided advice to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council in August last year, stating that the proposed amendments to mandatory reporting laws were not enough to remove the barriers for doctors seeking care.
‘The problem is that mandatory reporting legislation is very complex and [clinicians] feel they can’t afford to take the risk of not reporting everyone who presents with anything that could be possibly related to an impairment,’ Dr Willett said.
‘And a lot of health professionals, not just doctors – we’re also talking about nurses and physios and others – are being reported where they don’t need to be because their treating clinicians feel under a great deal of pressure.’
The RACGP voiced its concerns in an October consultation submission for the Bill, describing changes to mandatory reporting as ‘essential’.
‘The current reporting laws create a barrier for health practitioners to be open and honest about their health conditions, for fear this information may be divulged in the mandatory reporting process,’ the submission states.
‘It is important that practitioners receive the healthcare they need, rather than seek to hide issues through fear of being reported by their treating practitioner. Removing this mandatory reporting requirement, which prevents registered health practitioners from seeking healthcare, will improve patient safety.’

Chair of RACGP Queensland Dr Bruce Willett has called the decision ‘unfortunate’. ‘I think it creates the problem it’s trying to solve,’ he said.

Mandatory reporting of health practitioners by their peers for ‘notifiable conduct’ was first implemented in Australia in 2010, and concerns have mounted that fear of being reported was preventing practitioners experiencing mental health issues from seeking help. These fears have been underlined by a number of suicides among doctors and medical students, as well as growing evidence that anxiety and depression are more prevalent among doctors and medical students than the general population.
The RACGP’s submission outlined the barriers for practitioners who currently wish to seek help, and provided evidence for the success of the WA model. The RACGP also recommended better education about the intent of the law between policy makers and health professionals in order to help practitioners feel more confident about their rights and responsibilities.
Dr Willett would also like to see greater specificity in the wording of the legislation.
‘I would urge the WA solution, or at the very least a change in the wording from “a risk of substantial harm”, to “a substantial risk of substantial harm”,’ Dr Willett said.
It is important to note, however, that the Committee’s decision was not unanimous, with the inclusion of a statement of reservations signed by the Committee’s Deputy Chair, Mark McArdle. The reservations include a recommendation to adopt the WA model of mandatory reporting, excepting in cases of sexual misconduct, as well as an independent review of the implementation of the proposed changes by the COAG health council.
There is a chance that further advocacy against the Bill will be possible in the future, an effort in which the RACGP will be fully involved.
‘There is some indication that the Queensland Opposition will oppose. We would hope that they do, and that they have some support from government members,’ Dr Willett said.
‘The RACGP needs to continue to work with politicians from both sides on this; it will certainly continue to oppose this quite vigorously.
‘It’s a matter of accepting that doctors and nurses are human beings like everybody else, and at times they need help.’

doctors mental health mandatory reporting Queensland

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Dr Horst Paul Herb   5/02/2019 3:41:57 PM

It is not an "unfortunate" decision - to cal a spade a spade, it is an utterly stupid decision - a decision that flies in the face of all available sound evidence, and a decision likely to cause far more grief and harm than any good.
May the culprits be held accountable for ignoring reasoning and evidence in their decision making process.

Personally, I am considering not working for QLD health any more in protest. There is plenty of work available where sanity still prevails, eg in WA

Dr Horst Paul Herb   5/02/2019 3:49:16 PM

Whenever I write a prescription, no matter how well indicated, there will be a "risk of substantial harm" to the patient. Just looking at prescription patterns, eg with statins, clearly demonstrates that there is a substantial number of colleagues unable to apply reason and available evidence when judging risk vs benefit ratios and acting accordingly. Hence, one would be insane to trust them to apply sound reasoning rather than acting out of irrational fear when it comes to mandatory reporting.

This reasoning would lead to doctors either not seeking help at all, or only from those colleagues whom they perceive as close enough friends not to betray them - in either case the decision more likely to result in inferior outcome.

Dr Eric John Drinkwater   5/02/2019 4:03:27 PM

... meh, more of us will be breaking the law in protest of an unjust, uncompassionate system.

Dr Peter j Strickland   5/02/2019 5:37:58 PM

There is a sting in the tail for the GP. Don't forget to report all Members of Parliament, judges, lawyers, public servants, journalists etc. in this reporting. In fact, I believe there should be a public register for all those in the public service of the community should have mandatory reporting for any signs of depression, hypomania and possible bizarre decisions (i.e really a form of psychosis), and such things as incorrect decisions on anything they are responsible for --no excuses about making mistakes due to depression, bipolar tendencies, tiredness, anxiety, family problems, lack of insight into the effects of decisions etc. --- report them, and have them suspended from any decisions on diagnosis of any form of mental or physical illness that potentially affects decisions! That will bring back the balance to the Old (and other) parliaments. What is good for 'Peter' is good for 'Paul'!
Show some strength here RACGP Qld.--- it is not unfortunate, it is wrong and discriminatory ---give them something to think about by making this wrong decision on a basic human right for our profession.

Igor Jakubowicz   5/02/2019 7:32:44 PM

Well said, Horst.
Why would you want to work in Queensland? :)
Lots of better places.

Dr Jan Sheringham   6/02/2019 6:28:35 AM

Oh dear, Horst, I could not agree more! This is a DISGUSTING decision which flies in the face of good clinical practice! Please, can ALL COLLEGE FELLOWS AND MEMBERS take action on this, especially those in Queensland. Contact your local MPs, both state AND Federal, asking them to ensure this sort of legislation gains NO TRACTION. The WA definition of potential community harm is the furthest ANY such legislation should go.

Dr Joveria Javaid   6/02/2019 3:28:01 PM

Dr Peter Strickland, well said.

Dr Ewen Cameron   6/02/2019 9:01:55 PM

Re QLD parliament and mandatory reporting.
Surprise, surprise surprise, our politicians have shown themselves yet again to be dumb, short sighted, lacking in wisdom, hypocritical, self righteous, virtual signallers ready to feed struggling young health professionals to the wolves without any real benefit to the community.
In the immortal words of Kurt Vonegut who wrote the brilliant novel Slaughter House Five they can all go “take a flying the moon”
If there is any health professional out there who wants an ear willing to listen and heart wanting to help and a frontal cortex not wanting to judge then I’ll put my hand up.
As long as you’re as you’re not a homicidal maniac or going to harm your own precious lives the conversation doesn’t leave the room and meanwhile the goofy pollies can embark on their own journey into outer space and no doubt the subsequent benefit of mankind.

Garry Lewis   7/02/2019 1:30:58 PM

Such legislation is just a further attempt,by a left wing government, to completely control the medical profession. Indeed many doctors support such government ideals.
The late Dr Bruce Sheperd was perhaps the last capable leader of the A.M.A. In the 1980's and I shall quote him:"We must always be the patients doctor, not the governments doctor nor the doctor,of big business."
Name calling and insults will not change what are essentially the ideals ol the political left. The only effective response is for all practioners to ignore such legislation and continue to act in a manner they consider to be responsible

It would be interesting to know the number of medical practioners who voted for this left wing state parliament. The proposed legislation is just a further attempt to completely control the medical profession and all aspects of their practice.

Ewen Cameron   11/02/2019 6:55:37 AM

Apologies for careless misspell in my comment above.
Should of course be “virtue signallers.”
Good on Gary Lewis.
He’s comment is right on the ball in my book and no doubt more sensible and mature then mine.
Very recently the NSW government committed itself to more support for young doctors with extensive programs and a doctor hired to lead the initiative.
NSW apparently values it’s young doctors more.
The grief and sadness of mums and dads and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives and friends and colleagues of Queensland health professionals who have suffered or died as a result of their isolation looks to continue.
Perhaps Queensland leftist politicians are mostly “post modern neomarxists” at heart even if they don’t know it or like me don’t know exactly what it means!