Ms ARMITAGE question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
Questions relating to the state of laws regarding medical practitioners seeking mental health treatment, existing legislation is inconsistent between states. Tasmania's adoption of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law places an obligation for doctors treating other health professionals for mental health issues to report this to the relevant authorities.
The Western Australian adoption of the national law contains mandatory reporting provisions which are triggered only where the treating practitioner forms a reasonable belief that the impaired practitioner has placed the public at risk of substantial harm because the practitioner has an impairment.
The Council of Australian Governments - COAG - Health Council advocates for a nationally consistent approach to mandatory reporting, acknowledging that protecting the public from harm is of paramount importance because it is supporting practitioners to seek treatment, particularly mental health treatment, as soon as possible.
Will the Leader please advise -
Will the Government consider amending mandatory reporting laws for doctors treating other medical professionals for mental health issues to mirror the proven Western Australian model which exempts treating doctors from reporting their doctor patients, given the current laws are considered to bar doctors from accessing the same level of health services their patients enjoy for fear of potential personal or professional repercussions?
If the answer is no, given that it was reported in the Medical Journal of Australia on 23 July 2019 that statistics show that female doctors commit suicide at 2.27 times the rate of the general population and male doctors at 1.41 times the general population, can the Leader please indicate why not?
Mr President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question.
(1) and (2)
The Government recently supported national amendments as part of the COAG Health Council process. The intention is that these new guidelines will give registered health practitioners greater confidence to seek treatment for their health issues and make it clear that only the most serious impairments which are not being appropriately managed through treatment need to be reported.
One of the key changes resulting from the amendments is a higher threshold for reporting - a threshold of placing the public at 'substantial risk' of harm. That is, a 'substantial risk' rather than just 'risk' will apply to a practitioner-patient's conduct involving impairment, intoxication and departure from professional standards.
While these provisions are not the same as the Western Australian model, they are designed to provide a balance between ensuring practitioners seek help for their health issues and protecting the public from risk of harm.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency will develop an awareness and education program for practitioners.