As regular anti-vaccination watchers would be aware, due to the stunning work of Meryl Dorey and her anti-vaccination organisation, the Australian Vaccination Network, questionable health service providers of all stripes will be held to greater account by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. This includes homeopaths, naturopaths, and all other practitioners who like to make grand claims of efficacy, devoid of substance. The Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (page 18554), introduced by Health Minister Jillian Skinner, is steamrolling ahead, and seems likely to pass with support from all sides of politics.
On March 26 2013 Opposition Health Spokesperson Dr Andrew McDonald responded to Minister Skinner’s introduction of the Bill (page 19404). His speech is rightly scathing of the misleading information of the AVN, and the AVN’s misleading name (and he was not alone – other MPs were equally scathing). Dr McDonald seeks amendments to some sections of the Bill; however, importantly, seeks no amendments to Schedule 2 – the section pertinent to the AVN and other misleading health service providers – commending the Minister for the Bill, whilst at the same time commending Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts for his work in ordering the AVN to change their name. Interestingly, Dr McDonald also notes that he had cause to call police after threatening emails were sent to him by AVN supporters.
Here is the important excerpt from Dr McDonald’s speech [bold mine]:
Schedule 2 to the bill amends the Health Care Complaints Act 1993. The Health Care Complaints Commission is independent and its role is to assess, investigate and prosecute complaints against health practitioners and health service providers. The drivers for these changes are the 2012 Supreme Court decision in Australian Vaccination Network Inc. v Health Care Complaints Commission and the result of the 2010 joint parliamentary committee’s review of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993.
The Supreme Court decision has limited the ability of the Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate matters. Presently, the Health Care Complaints Commission can investigate only when a complaint is made that affects the management of an individual person. Immunisation depends on herd immunity and a highly immunised population is vital to prevent the spread of epidemics. If the herd immunity drops, the vulnerable are put at risk. That is why we have epidemics of vaccine-preventable conditions, such as whooping cough and measles. In 2009 Dana McCaffery from the North Coast of New South Wales, aged one month, died from whooping cough. Her photo is a centrepiece of the lecture on immunisation that is given to all medical students of the University of Western Sydney to stress the need for high immunisation rates as being vital protection for young children such as Dana.
However, the New South Wales immunisation rate remains in the low ninetieth percentile, due partly to the ability of such groups as Australian Vaccination Network to muddy the waters about immunisation. Parents seeking impartial advice on immunisation and Google “vaccination in Australia” will find the Australian Vaccination Network website comes up as number two on that search. The Australian Vaccination Network is a fervent and highly virulent anti-immunisation group. Its name and website are designed to mislead unsuspecting community members to believe that a balanced view about immunisation is being presented. When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network.
The bill amends section 7 of the Health Care Complaints Act to make clear that a complaint can be made against a health service if the health service affects, or is likely to affect, the clinical management or care of an individual client. This will mean that if a person or group acts as health service providers in a manner that is likely to affect an individual, even if one has not been identified, the Health Care Complaints Commission will have the necessary jurisdiction to investigate a complaint against that health service provider. The Australian Vaccination Network website is a mixture of scientific fact, half-truths and unproven allegations that only an expert eye can pick.
As I said earlier, this is a group that vehemently opposes immunisation. Groups or persons such as the Australian Vaccination Network are entitled to their views because we can all agree to disagree. However, the Australian Vaccination Network is a health service provider and should accurately reflect what those views are—in this case anti-immunisation. Like all health service providers it also should accept the consequences of its provision of health services on individual patients. This amendment to the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 should achieve this, and I commend the Minister for bringing this part of the legislation to the House. I commend and support the Minister for Fair Trading for his efforts to ensure that the Australian Vaccination Network adopt a name that accurately reflects its views.
This is all now on the public record.
There is not much more I can add to Dr McDonald’s speech.
Just a beautiful little baby girl, nestled in her Daddy’s legs.
We love you, darlin’.