The AMA fears impending legislation changes on mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners are a second best solution that “will not stop doctor suicides”.
After a protracted campaign by doctors’ groups including the AMA to overturn laws requiring treating practitioners to notify authorities about doctors who seek help, plans to introduce amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Amendment (Tranche 1A) Bill into the Queensland Parliament are just days away.
The amendment follows meetings of the COAG Health Council, at which health ministers have repeatedly been told how the laws – in place in all jurisdictions except WA – prevent doctors from seeking the care they need for mental health and substance abuse/dependency problems.
But the AMA says it now fears health ministers have adopted a “second best” solution at their most recent COAG meeting on 12 October.
Federal president Dr Tony Bartone says while the AMA has not seen the Bill, it fears the COAG Health Council has ignored the AMA’s proposed amendments, which were the next best thing to a WA-style approach.
The AMA’s proposed amendments were “vital to make the new national laws safe enough to give doctors confidence to seek help for their own health needs”, according to Dr Bartone.
“Our fear is that the Bill going before the Queensland Parliament will stop doctors seeking health care when they need it,” he said.
“We fear that this Bill will not stop doctor suicides.”
“We have also provided advice to Ministers on how alternative proposals could be modified to give them the best chance of success … but, sadly, the COAG Health Council may not have gone far enough to protect the health of Australia’s doctors.”
Dr Bartone vowed the AMA would continue to fight for WA-style exemptions on mandatory reporting.
“If the Bill, once released, does not provide the complete confidence and security that doctors need to be open about their health issues and seek help, the AMA will act in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of doctors right around Australia, and will heighten its public campaign to have our governments do the right and proper thing to protect the health of doctors,” he said.