Over the last few months, MIGA has been working away on a number of issues related to doctors’ health, and we want to let you know about important things which are underway or coming up.
National Doctors’ Health Strategy
Late last year, MIGA was part of a National Doctors Health Forum, convened by Doctors’ Health Services (DHS) and the Australian Medical Association, focusing on reducing the risk of suicide in the medical profession.
Recently, a report on the forum and a ‘call for action’ containing a number of possible next steps, has been released. You can download the report at the bottom of this article.
DHS has committed to:
- Leading the development of a doctors’ health consensus statement;
- Developing and distributing education on how to be a ‘doctor-patient’ and treating medical colleagues;
- Providing advice, support and clearer pathways to assist all doctors to find their own GP;
- Increasing efforts to provide support to colleagues at risk; and
- Developing a communication plan to share key messages from the forum with the profession; and working with key stakeholders such as MIGA to reinforce messages and drive cultural change.
Over the coming months, MIGA will be part of further discussions with DHS and other stakeholders around key actions.
From MIGA’s perspective as a medical defence organisation, the following are important issues to work through:
- Access to appropriate care, including facilitating all doctors and medical students having a GP, and how to identify and respond to illness in self and colleagues;
- Practice / regulatory issues – how practising in professional isolation can affect health and well-being, accommodating impacts of ageing and the significant negative impacts medico-legal processes can have on mental health; and
- Workplace / training issues – supporting doctors returning to work, availability of services to support doctors’ health, dealing with unacceptable behaviour and supporting supervisors.
MIGA already provides doctors’ health education and support to its members, including:
- Doctor’s Health Assessment which earns doctors Risk Management Points;
- Practitioners’ Support Service which provides access to confidential peer and professional support when needed;
- Doctors’ Health e-book addressing active management of your health; and
- “Caring for our colleagues” Workshop as part of our Risk Management Program, dealing with preventative health care and collegiate support.
More information about these initiatives can be obtained from our website.
Mandatory reporting by treating practitioners
For some time, MIGA has been advocating for changes to mandatory reporting obligations on treating doctors to ensure that these do not pose an impediment to doctors seeking appropriate care for mental and physical health issues.
Mandatory reporting obligations for treating practitioners arise when:
- A registered health practitioner is treating another registered health practitioner;
- The treating practitioner has a reasonable belief that the practitioner they are caring for has engaged in ‘notifiable conduct’;
- ‘Notifiable conduct’ requiring a mandatory report includes when a practitioner has:
– practised while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs;
– engaged in sexual misconduct in connection with their practice;
– placed the public at risk of substantial harm in their practice because they have an impairment; or
– placed the public at risk of harm because they have practised in a way that constitutes a significant departure from accepted professional standards.
Late last year, MIGA was involved in a consultation on proposed changes to mandatory reporting laws. In particular, we supported:
- Removal of these obligations on treating practitioners where it involves issues of impairment;
- Development of clearer guidance on ethical and professional reporting obligations associated with impairment; and
- National consistency in managing individual cases of impairment by the Medical Board / AHPRA.
Issues of impairment represent the majority of mandatory reporting notifications for treating doctors. In our experience, doctors understandably struggle with mandatory reporting obligations, particularly as to what constitutes impairment. We perceive there is considerable fear amongst doctors about seeking care because of perceived risk to their careers.
Various Australian governments are working on an agreed position to be endorsed by health ministers this month. It has been suggested this will involve a narrowing of mandatory reporting obligations on treating practitioners, particularly in relation to impairment.
We will continue to advocate for our members’ interests in these areas and will let you know how things progress.