Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2261 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
I think Mr Stanhope's request this morning for a little bit more time to look at the detail of the Bill and what we have proposed is also entirely appropriate. If other members agree, after the in-principle stage today we can adjourn debate on the Bill and bring it back for detailed debate, if that is necessary, next Thursday.
The proposed amendments to the Bill follow comment by the scrutiny of Bills committee that it was not fully clear which statements and disclosures produced before quality assurance committees were protected from being admissible in other proceedings and that there was uncertainty about the types of proceedings to which such protection applies. The amendments to the Bill that I have circulated apply to proposed section 11 and proposed section 13AG.
The Bill, as amended, will clarify that no oral statement made in proceedings before an approved public or private quality assurance committee or document prepared solely for the purposes of such committees and given to those committees is admissible as evidence in proceedings before a court, tribunal, board or person. It makes it clear that other documents which may be used by approved public or private quality assurance committees are not, by this legislation, exempt from admissibility in other proceedings.
The committee also raised the broader question of whether the Bill, and therefore the Act, might unduly trespass on an individual's rights and liberties. This is the question of balance that Mr Stanhope was referring to and which I have already made some comments on. As the 1993 Health Act did, the Bill has a central role to play in promoting quality assurance activities in hospitals. The legislation provides protection from litigation to members of hospital quality assurance committees in relation to their conduct as members of those committees. It is very limited in its application. It applies only to members of the committee and only insofar as they are doing the work of those committees. Immunity is the very essence of the legislation, as it facilitates full and frank disclosure and discussion of the issues before a quality assurance committee. That already exists in public hospitals now. The legislation extends it to private hospitals.
Private hospitals regard the lack of immunity and protection similar to those in public hospitals as a most significant obstacle to proper performance of the role of quality assurance committees in their hospitals. To ensure continuous improvement in the quality and safety of health care, it is critical that our hospitals maintain effective quality assurance committees. Without this legislation, the committees cannot be as effective as they would be otherwise. At both the national and local levels there is considerable activity in the area of patient safety, incident monitoring and the development and use of reliable performance indicators to inform on quality improvement. Members may recall that in this area I appointed Ms Fiona Tito to look at our hospitals and see what we can do in order to improve patient safety and to look at this range of issues. It may be appropriate to revisit the issue of the role and responsibility of quality assurance committees as these issues develop further. If that is indeed the case, then I will certainly discuss that with members and bring back modifications to the legislation should that be appropriate.