In this edition: Weight loss and unprofessional conduct, the Federal Governments Long Term National Health Plan, Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages online system, and the safety of older Australians.

The latest insights from our Health Law team:

Health practitioner using telehealth to treat weight-loss patients engaged in unprofessional conduct

The Federal Government’s Long Term National Health Plan to focus on mental health and children

Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages new online system for registering MCCD/MCCPD forms

Safety of older Australians at centre of new regulatory agreement

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Health practitioner using telehealth to treat weight-loss patients engaged in unprofessional conduct

A recent NSW case has highlighted the risks to practitioners who conduct health assessments via phone or video. Dr Thomas Goyer was accused of twenty-six instances of unsatisfactory professional conduct and one complaint of professional misconduct by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).

Dr Goyer admitted to the first complaint, that he failed to provide appropriate care and treatment for patients at Medical Weightloss Institute, and also that his failure to provide proper care and treatment was conduct which amounted to unsatisfactory professional conduct within the meaning of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW). The HCCC examined all counts, and determined that the first complaint was so serious as to warrant a finding of professional misconduct.

Dr Goyer established a medical clinic which dealt in weight-loss treatment. It was heard that the practice’s business operated like a call centre, whereby patients would first speak to a consultant about the weight loss solutions that the clinic could provide, following a consultation with a nurse who obtained a medical history. Patients then underwent a blood test and a teleconference with a doctor, following which medication was prescribed. Some of the medications provided to patients require a face to face consultation prior to prescribing. The HCCC accepted expert evidence that Dr Goyer:

  • did not use evidence-based combination therapy; and
  • used a strange combination of alternating treatments without a clear rationale or evidence of efficacy.

The HCCC also found that the records maintained at the clinic were inadequate.

Stage 2 of the matter is yet to be heard. You can read the full judgement of Stage 1 here.

The Federal Government’s Long Term National Health Plan to focus on mental health and children.

The Federal Government has recently announced its Long Term National Health Plan and for the very first time, mental health has been placed alongside physical health in terms of importance.

The Long Term National Health Plan is a step by step strategy for the improvement of all Australians health and of the health system in Australia in the next 3-10 years.

Under this new plan, a 2030 mental health specific vision has been set for children under the age of 12. The plan intends to provide steps that Government must take to build a mental health system that is better than ever before, with a focus on supportive parenting and preventing threat of trauma for children.

Alongside improving children’s mental health, the plan includes the following strategies:

  1. The 10-year Primary Health Care Plan;
  2. Continued improvement of private health insurance; and
  3. The 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy.

To help achieve these goals, another strategy announced is the 10-year Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) investment plan. The Federal Government has commissioned a study entitled ‘The Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study’. This never before seen study is aimed at gauging the health status of Australians through studying 60,000 people over multiple years. This research is considered one of the major building blocks of the Long Term Plan and will hopefully result in important findings.

To read the Minister for Health’s announcement regarding the Long Term Health Plan, please click here.

Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages new online system for registering MCCD/MCCPD forms

With the introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD), Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM) has updated its forms for registering deaths. From 19 June 2019, medical practitioners are now required to notify BDM if they know or reasonably believe a deceased person held a VAD permit.

With new forms, BDM has taken the opportunity to upgrade its online system for registering deaths. Medical practitioners can now submit a “Medical certificate of cause of death” and “Medical certificate of cause of perinatal death” online, in hard copy by post (until February 2020) or through an “alternate use form” (when the online system is down).

A copy of all forms must continue to be printed and provided to funeral directors. However, a copy is on longer required to be sent to the relevant hospital and/or aged care facility. The relevant hospital and/or aged care facility can view the form through their own BDM account, if the medical practitioner has been linked to their account or selected their hospital/facility when completing the form.

To read BDM’s fact sheet about the new online system, click here.

To read more about the new forms, click here.

Safety of older Australians at centre of new regulatory agreement

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) have formalised their undertaking to collaboratively improve information-sharing, particularly where necessary to ensure the safety of aged care consumers.

AHPRA and the Commission recently announced and released their new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), under which both parties agree to share information with the other where concerns are raised regarding care recipients’ safety and the quality of care received. The MoU aims to achieve full transparency, and states that it “encourages sharing of data and information” in order for each body to effectively discharge their responsibilities.

The MoU also provides that each party to the understanding will maintain any information received in a secure environment, and will update the party from whom it has received information on the use of that information.

AHPRA and the Commission intend to review the MoU every two years, or as needed if certain circumstances arise and call for amendment. This reflects the view that consumers’ needs and interests, and the aged care industry itself, are constantly evolving. Further, both AHPRA and the Commission agree to hold a liaison meeting quarterly to discuss the operation of the MoU, the nature of the information being shared, and other matters relevant to the ongoing collaboration and cooperation of each party.

The new MoU signals the growing strength of the relationship between AHPRA and the Commission, which is a necessary component of AHPRA’s administration of its National Registration and Accreditation Scheme under the National Law.

To read more about the new MoU, and to access a full version of the MoU, click here.