The Australian Medical Professionals Society (AMPS) and the Nurses’ Professional Association of Australia (NPAA) welcome the opportunity to provide feedback to the Health and Environment Committee inquiry review of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (the Bill). AMPS would like to note that a two week consultation period for the most wide ranging reforms in the scheme’s history is grossly inadequate.

AMPS and NPAA represent more than 10,000 health practitioners across Australia, we are an industrial association whose principal purpose is to protect and promote the interests of our members and their patients, and to support the best possible health outcomes for all Australians.

Our members have raised serious concerns about further refocusing the objectives and guiding principles of the Health Regulation National Law to make “public safety and confidence” a primary consideration, and the ability to issue public statements about persons whose conduct poses a serious risk to public health and safety. While we understand the intent of the proposed changes, we believe the broad and discretionary nature of claims to “Public safety and confidence” are already being used as a mechanism to enforce compliance with government directives.

Directives that lack evidence based science, and indeed lack consensus support from health practitioners not being asked, but who are being directed to implement. Public health orders supported by secret health advice built on secret science. Policy decisions should be based on evidence, experience, and complete transparency.

Furthermore, the idea that non-compliance with government decrees poses an immediate risk to patient safety is dangerous to evidence based patient care. We do not feel the explanatory notes provide any clarity regarding the risk-based approach to be used to interpret “Public health, safety and confidence.2” Therefore, we have no confidence that provisions for Public health and safety will, in application, improve public protection from clinical misconduct nor increase confidence in the public health system.

Further, AMPS cannot support the extension in law to publicly name and shame practitioners who “pose a risk to public safety,” without defining how risk is to be interpreted. For example a conviction of a relevant offence or an investigational finding of patient harm.

Otherwise this is yet another discretionary legislative amendment that our members feel could be used to publicly shame non compliant practitioners, without the presumption of innocence, causing severe financial and permanent reputational damage, while regulators are provided with liability protection for any harms or damage caused. These proposed powers also serve to conveniently silence voices of expertise that wish to correct health authorities, which may and has counter-productively prevented necessary information and communication from entering the public sphere

Our membership has highlighted serious concerns about claims to “public safety and confidence” leading to conflict with our codes of conduct which make our patients our primary concern. Our codes of conduct are predicated on The Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, the International Code of Ethics and outline our dedication to serving humanity, to do no harm, making our patients our first consideration. Discretionary laws prioritising “public health and safety” raise serious concerns that our codes of conduct prioritising our patients will be further overridden by enforced compliance to domestic public health messaging, essentially by decrees in the name of “public safety and confidence.”

We will address a number of the amendments in our submission which we believe require review to ensure the public is protected from both practitioner professional misconduct, and government dictates enforcing practitioners to act against their conscience and scientific evidence. These dictates enforce compliance with domestic public health laws that breach Human Rights and best practice. Public health and safety can only be assured in an environment of open, informed, and transparent policy discussion. Community confidence is created when people know their Health Practitioner is free to speak without threat or intimidation, in accordance with their implied civil and political rights to advocate for their patients

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