AMA President Dr Michael Gannon will tomorrow make an "impassioned plea" to the nation’s health ministers to adopt mandatory reporting laws and improve the mental health of staff.
Gannon will address the COAG Health Council at a meeting in Sydney tomorrow, and said he would stress the importance of providing health staff with a "safe and confidential environment" where they can seek help for mental health or stress-related conditions.
It is expected that the council will make a decision on mandatory reporting at tomorrow’s meeting.
Gannon said the AMA had been calling for mandatory and nationally consistent law for some time, and hoped this would be a way forward.
“Doctors deserve the right to access health services, just like their patients,” Gannon said.
“There is a strong body of evidence, including extensive work by Beyondblue, showing that doctors and other health workers are at greater risk of mental illness and stress-related problems, yet the current laws inhibit many from seeking treatment for a mental health condition because they fear the impact it could have on their medical registration and their ability to practise medicine.
“The current mandatory reporting laws have a two-fold effect – some people will not seek help at all, and those who do may not divulge all the necessary information to receive appropriate care.
“The AMA is extremely concerned that we have a situation now where doctors may be avoiding appropriate health care, potentially putting both themselves and their patients at risk.
“We know this. Doctors have told us. We have lost too many colleagues and friends to the scourge of mental illness. The figures compel us to act."
The AMA supports a new national model that will not prevent doctors from seeking the treatment they may need.
“The COAG Health Council is committed to developing a nationally consistent approach to mandatory reporting – they must choose the right model," Gannon said.
"It must be based on the best aspects of the Western Australian model, which exempts doctors from the effects of mandatory reporting requirements when seeking treatment for health-related concerns.
“The WA model is the right one to draw on when it comes to giving doctors access to health care. It is a proven model. It has given doctors the confidence to seek the help they need, and there is no evidence that it has diminished patient safety in any way.
“It is also a model that was recommended in the Independent Review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, a Senate report, and a number of academic studies.
“It in no way stops the medical profession’s ethical and professional responsibilities to report a practitioner who may be placing the public at risk.
“Options that simply re-word the current legislation, or seek to maintain the status quo, will do nothing but condemn doctors to continue to suffer in silence."Do you have an idea for a story?
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