In encouraging news, Medical Observer has just published an article (log-in required, sorry), outlining proposed changes to the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Act, as advised by the recent Parliamentary Committee on the HCCC. From the article:
A NSW parliamentary committee has urged the state government to change laws so that complaints about health care professionals can be made “more generally” and not just “about the clinical management or care of an individual patient”.
This has big implications for those who are deemed to be health service providers under Section 4 of the Act (bold mine):
(a) medical, hospital, nursing and midwifery services,
(b) dental services,
(c) mental health services,
(d) pharmaceutical services,
(e) ambulance services,
(f) community health services,
(g) health education services,
(h) welfare services necessary to implement any services referred to in paragraphs (a)-(g),
(i) services provided in connection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practices and medical radiation practices,
(j) Chinese medicine, chiropractic, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathy, physiotherapy, podiatry and psychology services,
(j1) optical dispensing, dietitian, massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, speech therapy, audiology and audiometry services,
(k) services provided in other alternative health care fields,
(k1) forensic pathology services,
(l) a service prescribed by the regulations as a health service for the purposes of this Act.
Should this amendment to Section 7 be passed, it will be a game-changer for any unscrupulous organisations and practitioners who have so far avoided accountability due to sub-clause 7 (1) (b), here (my bold):
HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS ACT 1993 – SECT 7
7 What can a complaint be made about?
(1) A complaint may be made under this Act concerning:
(a) the professional conduct of a health practitioner (including any alleged breach by the health practitioner of Division 1 or 3 of Part 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 or of a code of conduct prescribed under section 100 of that Act), or
(b) a health service which affects the clinical management or care of an individual client.
(2) A complaint may be made against a health service provider.
(3) A complaint may be made against a health service provider even though, at the time the complaint is made, the health service provider is not qualified or entitled to provide the health service concerned.
If this sub-clause is removed, those wishing to lodge a complaint regarding dangerous or misleading health practices and/or misinformation would no longer need to rely on the “clinical management or care of an individual client” to substantiate their complaint. Of course one would still need to provide evidence of wrongdoing, as is proper.
Here’s hoping that these amendments are passed quickly, so as to ensure that unscrupulous purveyors of misinformation and dangerous health advice can be held to account quickly.
As noted in the Medical Observer article:
“The effect of the amendment would be to allow complaints to be made about health organisations more generally, without the need for direct clinical management to be proven,” Ms Williams [committee chair] wrote, adding “this matter should be given the highest priority”. [my bold]
Indeed it should.
Public health deserves this.