High Court allows appeal by hospital against family of a man murdered by discharged patient

We previously reported on the NSW Court of Appeal decision in McKenna v Hunter & New England Local Health District; Simon v Hunter & New England Local Health District [2013] NSWCA 476 and the High Court’s decision to grant special leave to appeal to Manning Base Hospital.

In this case, a psychiatrist and Manning Base Hospital were found liable to the family of a man murdered by a psychiatric patient.  The defendants were found to have breached their duty of care by discharging the patient, who had been compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act 1990 (NSW), into the custody of a friend whom he later strangled and killed.  The Court of Appeal awarded the victim’s family over $250,000 for psychiatric injury resulting from nervous shock.

On appeal, the High Court had to determine if the Hospital owed the victim’s family a duty when deciding that the powers given by the Act used to detain the patient should no longer prevent him leaving the hospital.

The High Court interpreted section 20 of the Act as prohibiting detention of mental health patients unless the medical superintendent of the hospital is satisfied that no other less restrictive means of care is available. For this reason, the Court did not have to decide whether the superintendent did not positively authorise the patient’s release and the requirements of the Act were inconsistent with the duty of care alleged by the victim’s family.

The Court found that the Hospital did not owe the family a duty of care and the appeal was allowed.  

To view the judgment, click here.

To view our previous reports, click here and here.

Legislation

Senate Committee calls for conscience vote on future euthanasia Bill

On 10 November 2014, the Federal Senate Legal and Constitution Affairs Legislation Committee released its report into theMedical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014 (Cth). The report called for a conscience vote if a Bill dealing with euthanasia issues is introduced into the Senate in the future. The report recommended further clarification on several key technical issues addressed by the Bill, including the definition of “terminal illness”, the number of practitioners required to consider requests and decision-maker capacity.

To view the report, click here.

Draft legislation for paramedic registration scheme

We previously reported on the proposed legislation to establish a registration scheme for paramedics. An exposure draft of theParamedics Registration Bill 2014 (Vic) has now been released and will remain open for submissions until 15 December 2014.

To view our previous report, click here.

To view the draft legislation, click here.

Cases

Draft taxation determination on fringe benefits tax and employment arrangements for public and non-profit hospitals

On 29 October 2014, the ATO published draft taxation determination TD 2014/D17. The draft determination explains the circumstances in which an employer can assess the fringe benefits tax exemption under section 57A(2) of the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986 (Cth) for employees of government bodies who work in, or in connection with, a public or non-profit hospital.

The draft determination explains that an employee’s duties must satisfy one of two tests; their duties must be performed exclusively in a hospital (working within a hospital at a place where the hospital activities are conducted) or in connection with a hospital (performing hospital related duties, regardless of location).

Comments on the draft determination are due by 28 November 2014.

To view the draft determination, click here.

Nitschke professional misconduct complaints referred to Northern Territory Health Professional Review Tribunal

The Medical Board of Australia has referred 12 complaints of professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct against Dr Philip Nitschke to the Northern Territory Health Professional Review Tribunal.

The Board had previously suspended Dr Nitschke from practising as a medical practitioner as an interim step to manage risk to the public in connection with his support for voluntary euthanasia. Dr Nitschke’s appeal against this decision is currently being heard.

The Tribunal is yet to schedule a hearing for the 12 complaints.

News

AHPRA’s National Scheme Annual Report 2013/14 released

AHPRA has released its Annual Report on the National Scheme for 2013/14, which compares the achievements of AHPRA and the National Board against the objectives of the National Law and its guiding principles.

Data collated by AHPRA concerning notifications records a 16% jump in overall notifications received by AHPRA, validating AHPRA’s investment in notifications management and focus on improving the experience of notifiers. Notably, there was a 26% rise in nursing and midwifery notifications and an 18.6% increase in notifications regarding medical practitioners. Of the matters determined by tribunals, 88% resulted in disciplinary action, while only 19% of appeals altered the original decision made under the National Law. Further, 96% of registered health practitioners renewed their registration online, which sets the international benchmark.

The Annual Report further illustrates the effectiveness of the National Scheme citing that 98% of advertising related complaints and 97% of title and practice protection complaints were resolved by the relevant organisation complying with AHPRA’s demand to adhere to the National Law.

To view the Annual Report, click here.

Australian Medical Association independent report into Medicare GP co-payment

This month, the AMA released its independent report, The Red Tape Burden of the Proposed Medical Services Co-payment, which considers the costs of collecting the Government’s proposed Medicare co-payments for GP, pathology and imaging services.

The report focuses on the additional administrative costs that general practices are likely to encounter in implementing the co-payment model, such as the additional time taken by staff to verify and document transactions, financial institution fees and cash handling expenses.

The report estimates that the overall administrative costs of implementing the co-payment model will be between $1.41 and $1.61 per service, which varies depending on the wage rates and available software applicable to a given service provider or to a specific region. Applying these results to pathology and diagnostic imagining services, the report provides that the aggregate dead-weight cost to the overall economy will be between $274 million and $313 million in the 2015-16 financial year.

To view the report, click here.