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    “Why are health regulators leaving the heavy lifting to the ACCC?” I posed a similar question a year ago, and received a letter from lawyers representing the Department of Health and Ageing demanding a retraction. They said it was “inaccurate and inflammatory” to suggest that the TGA was passing the buck and laying the blame at the feet of dodgy doctors. They may have been right in that other unregistered ‘health practitioners’ have also been spruiking thermal scanners and other quack cancer detection/treatment devices. Having said that, at least one doctor is currently being prosecuted by the ACCC over alleged false claims made for breast imaging.
    Why aren’t these lawyers for DoHA and the TGA being used to target those making false and misleading claims about cancer cures?

    Michael Woodhead

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    Jon Wardle

    I agree on the need for increased need for regulation of new practitioners but would contend that the AHMAC proposals are not proper, front-end nor targeted and therefore do not think that Rebecca will find them as effective as she wishes.

    The AHMAC proposal completely lacks proactive elements for the larger professions (for example the training of counsellors) and does little to amend public confusion as to where to report practitioners.

    In NSW the statutory Code of Conduct has failed to protect consumers in most cases, as it is only the most egregious cases are actioned, given the resource constraints. It remains to be seen whether the cases she mentioned would be ‘serious’ enough for exploration. If the NSW experience is anything to go by I would not hold out hope. Ditto for ‘mild’ cases of financial exploitation or incompetent misdiagnosis.

    Even when the HCCC has taken action then this has not guaranteed protection, as practice rights have been restored and public declarations removed in relation to some practitioners who were acquitted of “legal” wrongdoing, even when grave ethical concerns that would result in de-registration from a professional board remained.

    The AHMAC proposal for a statutory Code of Conduct is an excellent catch-all safety net that will offer the public a small increase in protection, but it should never replace real statutory regulation of professions with a large (and increasing) role in Australia. Amongst those professions government reports have consistently recommended regulating are naturopaths and counsellors/psychotherapists.

    We were all initially informed in 2009 that as the ‘third stage’ of the introduction of the NRAS AHPRA would review professions that should be included in the national scheme.

    However, I fear that the upcoming AHMAC legislation will be used as an excuse to avoid registering new profession under AHPRA, when the changing healthcare landscape in Australia requires a significant expansion of the professions AHPRA regulates. I sincerely hope that AHMAC aren’t trying to pass the buck on this.

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    Raymond Bange

    The strength of a statutory Code would be its potential comprehensive nature and statutory application with enforceable penalties. A potential weakness is that it is essentially ‘passive’ and has limited capacity for active monitoring and feedback unlike a system of formal registration.

    Another weakness is a Code’s limited coverage beyond the activities of practitioners. The regulatory system should capture the responsibility of employers for their directly supervised and employed healthcare practitioners.

    The central principle of protecting the public interest remains, and if government is to fulfil its obligations properly, then both operational aspects need to be addressed, albeit there may be different mechanisms involved for an operator to those for an individual.

    Government thus carries an underlying obligation to minimise risks in the public interest, not only through the regulation of the individual practitioner, but also through the accreditation, licensing and monitoring of any related entity
    that provides direct operational (e.g. clinical) practice support.

    There are numerous examples of employers breaching the spirit of a professional practitioner code of conduct and this forms an additional justification for capturing employers and related service providers within the scope of an overall regulatory framework.


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