ADF – 8 April 2011

“Enforced language change in legislation has been exposed by the Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiring into the Health and Hospitals Legislation,” Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate said in Sydney today.

In answer to a question from Senator Boyce who was seeking clarification of a wider interpretation of the terms ‘medical’ and ‘clinical’ the Federal Health Department officials confirmed that ‘clinical’ and ‘medical’ were terms to be used for all health care.

“Ms Murnane – Yes, ‘medical’ would. “medical” is provided by nurses and paramedics. There would be a range of services. Dental services are provided by hygienists. If you started to stipulate everything, you would be in danger of leaving something out. If you try to be exhaustive, the problem is that it is not going to be possible to be. I think there is a common and open meaning of those terms.”

“Mr Broadhead – No, my understanding of the word ‘clinician’ in common understanding is that it is anybody who lays hands on the patient, so to speak – although they do not literally have to do that!”

“Precise understandings of terminology are critically important for the safety of patients.”

The danger of conducting cultural warfare in health care is that the patients are the ones who suffer. We have already seen the term ‘doctor’ and ‘surgeon’ made available for the use of anyone regardless of their health qualifications. “The public’s reliance on terminology to define the level of expertise of a person treating them is being dangerously eroded,” Mr Milgate said.

“Public servants simply follow what their masters in government want delivered.” Mr Milgate said.

The Federal Health Minister needs to instruct the Health Department to ensure that all terminology used in health legislation conveys its established context in order to prevent future confusion , the outcome of which could be dangerous for patients.

For more information contact: Mr Stephen Milgate (02) 9567 5595 (BH)