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Medical students disappointed with COAG’s proposed reform of mandatory reporting

05 Nov 2018

Media Release

5th November 2018

Medical students disappointed with COAG’s proposed reform of mandatory reporting

Last week, draft legislative amendments to reform mandatory reporting of health practitioners were tabled in the Queensland Parliament. The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is disappointed by the draft legislation as it fails to achieve its stated goal; to remove barriers preventing doctors and medical students from accessing mental health care.

AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students and believes that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council should fulfil its promise to reform mandatory reporting laws that prevent doctors and medical students accessing mental health care.

AMSA is disappointed that previous commitments by Ministers to end punitive laws have been disregarded in favour of a model which does not address the key issues raised by medical professionals.

AMSA President Alex Farrell said: “The conversation around mandatory reporting began, tragically, after a series of medical students and doctors took their own lives. This reform is a half-hearted conclusion to an important and emotional discussion around doctors’ mental health.

“Doctors have spoken, but politicians haven’t listened.

“The current laws have led to a fear of being reported if doctors and medical students seek help for mental illnesses. This fear deters doctors and students from seeking early, preventive care. The creation of a new national framework was a chance to address those fears, but this reform has failed to achieve that.”

Medical professionals have consistently called for the implementation of the “WA model”- where their ‘treating doctor’ is exempted from mandatory reporting laws. In practice, this means doctors feel safe in speaking to a medical professional about mental health issues without concern for their career.

“In Western Australia, doctors can seek the care they need, like everybody else. We know from WA that this model keeps doctors safe without compromising patient safety,” Ms Farrell said.

The Bill has been referred to the Queensland Parliament Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee for further consideration.

“AMSA is calling on the Committee to listen to the doctors and health professionals who have provided extensive feedback on this legislation. The stakes are very high,” Ms Farrell said.

“The reform must make it clear that doctors are safe to seek help without risking their careers. The only way to achieve this is to exempt treating doctors so that patient confidentiality is respected.” 

Media Contact: 
Victoria Cook- Vice President External


P: +61400636731

Published: 05 Nov 2018