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Health Bulletin

RK Health Insights 5 December 2017

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

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Queensland Health Ombudsman suspended

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The Queensland Health Ombudsman was suspended by the Minister for Health on 31 October 2017 following his handling of a complaint concerning a former anaesthetic technician who is facing charges relating to stealing fentanyl, a Schedule 8 drug, for personal use. 

In the Minister’s statement regarding his decision to suspend the Ombudsman, he stated “I requested information from the Health Ombudsman at the weekend regarding action he took after he was provided with information in June this year about a former Mater Health Services anaesthetic technician”.

Interestingly, the Health Ombudsman was suspended the day after he ordered the immediate suspension of the anaesthetic technician. 

The Health Ombudsman remains suspended until the end of his contract on 19 December 2017. The anaesthetic technician is facing criminal charges in Brisbane.

Read about the Health Ombudsman’s suspension here.

Read about the anaesthetic technician’s suspension here.

Better access: Private health insurance reform

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The Federal Government has recently announced a package of reforms aimed at making private health insurance more accessible and affordable for Australians.  The reforms include initiatives such as discounted insurance for 18 to 29 year olds, upgrades to mental health treatment access and travel and accommodation benefits for those living in rural or regional areas.

Health insurance products will be categorised into Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic with standardised definitions for certain treatments to be used.  These measures are aimed at making private health insurance products easier to compare and to give Australians a better understanding of what their insurance covers.

The changes have been welcomed by the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) with the CEO, Michael Roff, stating that the incentives offered to younger members will help improve the sustainability of the health insurance system.  However, APHA remains concerned about the retention of policies that do not provide adequate cover (known as “junk policies”) and rather listing them in the new “Basic” category.

Read the Government’s media release here.

Read APHA’s media release here.

Read more about the reforms here.

Quality review released: Aged care assessment visits to be unannounced

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Announced accreditation visits across Australian aged care facilities will now be replaced by unannounced audits.  This change is taking place to preserve high levels of quality and safe care across Australian aged care facilities.

The change in methodology has resulted from the review of the National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes ordered by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM, following revelations of appalling conditions and treatment at South Australia’s Oakden facility.

After the review, Mr Wyatt stated “while the overwhelming majority of facilities provide excellent care and are working to continually improve services, our focus must be on those that are not delivering”.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) supports the changes, stating the recommendations will introduce improved communication for patients and clearer standards for clinical care in residential aged care facilities.  The AMA has, however, called for further action including compensation for doctors through Medicare to increase access to medical care in aged care facilities and increased access to nurses.

Read the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes here.

Read the media release by the Hon Ken Wyatt here.

Read the AMA’s statement here.

Real-time prescription monitoring in Victoria

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Victoria’s first real-time prescription monitoring system is set to be rolled-out in 2018 after Parliament passed the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Real-Time Prescription Monitoring) Act 2017 recently. 

The new system will be known as SafeScript and provides doctors, nurses and pharmacists with an up-to-date database to review prescription histories of patients.  In particular, SafeScript will monitor high-risk drugs including all Schedule 8 medicines (such as morphine and benzodiazepines).  Practitioners will be required to check the system when prescribing or dispensing high risk medicines.

Read the Victorian Government’s media release here.

Read the new legislation here.