ADF National Health Registration Law Flawed – 21 July 2009

The Australian Doctors’ Fund has called for medical practitioners to be removed from the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Bill B), claiming the Bill is flawed.

The Bill is the centrepiece legislation in a COAG driven reorganisation of 13 professions supply the health needs of the community. It has been described the Health Services Union as “federation politics gone mad”*1. Its explanatory document lists 79 Frequently Asked Questions.

“Were this bill to become law, a state parliament would no longer have jurisdiction in its own state, since a “disallowed regulation” by a state parliament would still be in force until a majority of other states disallowed it” (Section 286.2,12/6/09), Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate, said in Sydney today.

This effectively means that the citizens of any state would be governed by other states.

“Here we have the most complex piece of health legislation ever devised, affecting over 400 000 health and allied health professionals, owned by no single jurisdiction. It is an orphan with 9 mothers, none of whom can claim any legal responsibility for their child.”

Even its nominal mother, Project Director Dr Louise Morauta, one of Australia’s most experienced public servants, acknowledges its complexities: “Yes, it is quite a complicated structure. It is sort of underpinned by the IGA… The Boards are accountable to ministers; it’s just that they are accountable to multiple ministers”*2. This is not the language of a confident legislator.

“Dr Morauta is wrestling a legislative monster.” Mr Milgate said.

Despite stating that “the object of this law is to protect the public”, Bill B would set up the apparatus for the deregulation of complex medical procedures. In the interests of public safety, anaesthesia, one of the most hazardous areas of medical practice is now administered by medical specialists with dramatic cuts in death rates. Now we face the prospect of anaesthesia being administered by non- medically trained personnel.

There is a better way – Administrative reforms can be achieved without the need for this Bill, by upgrading the computer database known as the National Compendium of Medical Registers to accommodate stream-lined registration procedures and by granting greater support to the established Joint Medical Boards Advisory Committee (JMBAC).

*1 Health Services Union media release, Cost and complexity: too much to pay? 17.7.09

*2 Dr Louise Morauta, Project Director, National Registration & Accreditation Implementation Project, Senate Hansard, Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry into National Registration & Accreditation Scheme for Doctors & other health care workers, 7 May 2009