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Medical Board backs down on naming doctors

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The Medical Board of Australia has backed down on its plan to publicly name doctors who had been under investigation, regardless of whether any adverse finding had been made.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone recently wrote to the Board Chair, Dr Joanna Flynn AM, and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Fletcher, to express concerns over the plan.

Dr Bartone said the AMA had “significant concerns” about the recommendation to publicly link disciplinary and court decisions to the registration details of doctors – regardless of whether the doctor has been found guilty of any transgression.

“The AMA is very concerned about the potential for medical practitioners to suffer discrimination as a result of being named in a previous tribunal proceeding, particularly where there was no finding against the practitioner,” Dr Bartone wrote.

The AMA was also concerned about cases where the issue was relatively minor or had occurred some years ago, where the doctor or their practice complied with the tribunal’s recommendations, and where other safeguards have been introduced to protect patients.

“In many cases, the public will not read the linked information but will assume that, because it has been linked by a reputable regulatory body, it is serious and of ongoing relevance,” Dr Bartone said.

“The AMA finds it difficult to comprehend that medical practitioners who are named in a tribunal procedure are offered less protection from discrimination than a person who has served a prison term.

“For example, the Commonwealth legislation would prohibit the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) from republishing information about persons who have been convicted of up to 30 months imprisonment. 

“And yet, medical practitioners who have committed a minor transgression (even when they have taken steps to ensure the issue can never occur again), or where the practitioner is not found guilty, will have links to the disciplinary process listed against them in perpetuity.  This seems palpably unfair.”

In late July, the Board announced that it would now only publish links to serious disciplinary decisions on the public register in the event of an adverse finding against the doctor.

“The Board has changed its position after listening to advice from many doctors and other stakeholders that this was not fair when no adverse finding had been made about the doctor,” it said in a statement.