Page 1512 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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Mr Speaker, the relocation of the abortion provisions from the Medical Practitioners Act 1930 to the Health Act 1993 is a straightforward matter. It is important that these abortion provisions are relocated as the Medical Practitioners Act 1930, which currently houses these provisions, will be repealed shortly as a result of the medical profession making the transition to the new health professionals legislation. If the abortion provisions are not relocated, they will be lost.

This bill simply allows for the relevant provisions to be lifted from the Medical Practitioners Act 1930 and placed in the Health Act 1993. The provisions themselves remain unchanged, with the exception of a change in terminology of “registered medical practitioner” to “doctor” for purposes of definition consistent with the health professionals legislation. The relocation of the provisions will involve amendments to the Health Professionals Act 2004 and the Health Act 1993.

The second issue addressed in the proposed bill is the repeal of the Medical Services (Fees) Act 1984. This act is an outdated piece of legislation that comprises two provisions relating to prescribed fees and, in particular, the overcharging of fees to private patients in ACT hospitals. The legislation no longer holds relevance, being largely overtaken over the years by various amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973 of the commonwealth and associated legislation.

Mr Speaker, the third component of the bill relates to amendments to the Health Professionals Act 2004. The first amendment to the act relates to midwifery. International best practice indicates that midwifery should no longer be part of the nursing profession and requirements that midwives should also be registered as nurses are unnecessary. The requirement fails, in particular, to recognise the differences that exist between these two health professions.

Many local jurisdictions in Australia have already made the move to create a separate health profession for midwifery and it was considered that the transition of the nursing profession under the new Health Professionals Act 2004 would be an appropriate time to remove any legislative obstacles to establishing midwifery as a separate health profession in the ACT.

There is widespread support within the ACT nursing profession for this move, and the current chair of the Nurses Board of the ACT is one of the most vocal advocates for this development. The Chief Nurse of the ACT is also very supportive of the move. Midwifery has already been established as a separate profession in New Zealand, the Northern Territory and New South Wales. Direct entry educational programs for midwives, separate from nursing educational requirements, are available in Victoria and South Australia and are planned for the ACT in 2006. Western Australia and Queensland are also in the process of establishing a separate midwifery profession.

Mr Speaker, the second change to the Health Professionals Act 2004 relates to the extension of the commencement date of the act from 8 July 2005 until 8 July 2006. This extension is necessary to avoid the potential repeal of the current health professionals registration acts before completing the transition of these health professionals under the new legislation. It is essential that the transition of all health professionals occurs before the default commencement provisions take effect.

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