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Advocacy Snapshot

Senate health care complaints inquiry

MIGA has been closely involved in an inquiry by the Commonwealth Senate into management of complaints against health practitioners and the Commonwealth Senate has just released its report1.

MIGA made a written submission to the inquiry, and was invited to give evidence before a Senate committee2.

The report made a number of recommendations, including:
 
  • Develop a process for dealing with vexatious complaints – MIGA had argued for a need to improve AHPRA processes for working out what is a vexatious complaint.
  • Ensuring clinical input to complaints at the earliest opportunity – MIGA argued for this - AHPRA has since introduced processes in South Australia and Queensland which go some way towards dealing with this issue.
  • Taking steps to improve complaint process timeliness – MIGA raised a variety of concerns around delays in dealing with complaints and timeframe ‘parity’, where doctors have limited time to respond, but regulators or complaints bodies processes take significantly longer.  We highlighted the iniquity and client frustration.
  • Ensuring regulators look at ways to educate practitioners as an alternative to disciplining them, and further training of AHPRA staff – MIGA has pressed for using a broader range of options, including clinical interviews, education and feedback, as a more productive and appropriate way to finalise a complaint, instead of cautions and other disciplinary action, and for better choice and training of AHPRA staff.
  • Considering whether to make a caution an appealable decision – the scope to appeal a caution may be helpful, but in any event MIGA believes there are too many cautions issued in some settings.  A better approach is educative, not punitive. The health complaints system, including how bodies such as AHPRA, the Medical Board of Australia and various health complaints bodies operate, remains a key focus of MIGA’s advocacy.  
The Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA are considering the inquiry’s recommendations.  We expect at least some of them to be addressed in upcoming proposals for changes to health practitioner regulation. 

MIGA is already involved in consultation with governments on proposed regulatory changes and looks forward to making further contributions over the coming months.   
 
Timothy Bowen
Senior Solicitor – Advocacy, Claims & Education
 
1 The inquiry report is available at www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/ComplaintsMechanism/Report
2 MIGA’s submission and its evidence to an inquiry hearing on 17 March 2017 is available at www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/ComplaintsMechanism
 

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