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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 1745..

Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed from 11 May 2006, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.58): I am sure the minister will be here shortly. I will talk slowly to give her time to come out of her budget briefing so that she can help us pass this very important Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2006.

The opposition will be supporting the bill. There are three broad purposes to the bill. Firstly, it permits the exchange of sensitive information where this would improve health services provided in the ACT. Secondly, it ensures that peer committees such as quality assurance or clinical privileges committees are properly established and informed so that they can make appropriate decisions for the wellbeing of the people of the ACT. Thirdly, it provides a longer transition period for health professionals to transfer to the Health Professionals Act, which was passed earlier this term. I thank the minister's office for enabling a briefing with senior health department officers on this legislation.

The key amendments relating to sensitive information appear to be quite reasonable. There is an appropriate rationale for these proposals. At present, quality assurance committees and clinical privilege committees cannot talk with each other about what are called adverse events. Adverse events, for members' information, are where a medical procedure goes wrong.

It is quite interesting at this time that we have information in the system that is not being shared appropriately. I note that is not only between clinical privilege committees and quality assurance committees but also between the public and private sectors. For instance, in a hospital in the ACT, if you had a medical practitioner who was acting in the public part of the system and had some adverse events and then, to possibly escape scrutiny or for career moves, he or she moves to the private part of that system, what happens in either part of the system cannot be discussed by the quality assurance committees.

When we have adverse events, that is, occasions when some serious action is taken or an outcome happens, such as a death or something similar, it is important that health professionals involved in evaluating these matters have access to all the information, including the history of such events. If there were an unexpected death, the coroner would become involved. To date, the coroner has been largely excluded from this process, and the amount of information that has flowed from the quality assurance committees to the coroner has been somewhat limited, unlike in other jurisdictions.

This bill will bring the ACT in line with other jurisdictions so that the coroner can, in a timely fashion, be made aware of information that the committees have. As I said, at present it is not possible for relevant information to be provided to the coroner until some significant delay-in some cases not at all. These proposals will permit the coroner to be involved at a much earlier stage. The overall impact of this is that any adverse event and any history or pattern of adverse events may be identified more quickly, investigations

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