RACGP submission advocates for changes to mandatory reporting laws

Evelyn Lewin

28/11/2018 10:22:11 AM

The RACGP is strongly calling for changes to the current mandatory reporting laws ahead of a parliamentary enquiry.

The submission comes as the proposed bill is before the Queensland Parliament.
The submission comes as the proposed bill is before the Queensland Parliament.

The RACGP has been calling for exemption from mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners since the inception of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) in 2009.
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (the Bill), currently before the Queensland Parliament, sought to amend the National Law.
In response, the RACGP has compiled the submission, Health practitioner regulation national law and other legislation amendment bill 2018, outlining its disappointment in the current state of the Bill.
According to the RACGP, the amendments outlined in the Bill make ‘no material difference to the current arrangements which are, as previously stated, unsatisfactory’.
‘The negative impact of mandatory reporting laws on doctors’ wellbeing is an extremely important issue among the medical profession,’ the submission states.
In August, the RACGP advised the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council that the proposed amendments to mandatory reporting laws were inadequate to remove the barriers for doctors seeking care.
The RACGP’s preferred option was for exemption for health practitioners from reporting doctors under their care, as per the model adopted by Western Australia (WA). However, the amended Bill to which health ministers agreed at the COAG Health Council on 12 October included none of the RACGP’s recommendations.
The RACGP was ‘deeply disappointed’ that feedback from the medical profession was completely dismissed, and hopes this latest submission will influence the Bill, which is to be debated in Queensland’s Parliament after an investigation by a parliamentary committee.
If the Bill is passed in Queensland, it will direct all other state and territory laws, except for Western Australia.
The current mandatory reporting law requires a treating practitioner to report any presenting health professional if they are experiencing a medical condition or mental health issues, or any issue which might place the public at risk of harm.
It is the RACGP’s view, however, that a treating practitioner should not be mandated to report the medical condition or other impairment of a registered health practitioner under their care, stating there should be no distinction between the treatment of a registered health practitioner and that of a patient from any other occupation.
‘Just like all other people living in Australia, any practitioner-patient should be entitled to discuss their health with their doctor in a strictly confidential environment,’ the submission states.
The RACGP states the only issue where a treating practitioner should be subject to mandatory reporting is with evidence of sexual misconduct. The current and proposed mandatory reporting laws remain a barrier for practitioner-patients who may fear consequences of being reported by their treating doctor when presenting for care, such as its effect on their registration as a health practitioner.
This is of significant concern considering that a meta-analysis of a beyondblue literature review showed that, compared to the general population, male doctors had a 26% higher risk of suicide, while female doctors had a 146% higher risk.
Furthermore, an extensive 2013 study of more than 12,000 doctors by beyondblue revealed that 34.3% of respondents cited concerns about their medical registration as a barrier to seeking treatment for a mental health condition.
‘Doctors are patients too, they deserve to be supported, not reported,’ the submission states.
‘Their wellbeing needs to be protected so that they can continue to provide the best possible level of care to the community.’

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