SOME of the problems facing the new Medical Board of Australia were anticipated, but the efficiencies expected from having one national body do not justify the hike in fees, a former state medical board director says.
The comments follow reports of confusion regarding registration, with some reminder letters not properly addressed, and the Medical Board agreeing not to impose a late fee of $325 for 2010.
Dr Kerry Breen, a former head of the old Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria, predicted in the Medical Journal of Australia last year that the registration fee would increase significantly once national registration came into effect. He says his prediction has come true with the renewal of registration fee now set at $650 for doctors compared to $400 in Victoria last year.
And he still believes the additional layer of bureaucracy put in place to centrally receive and triage complaints and other issues is unjustifiable: “It seems unlikely that any efficiencies can flow from this extra layer.”
While Dr Breen says efficiencies will arise from simplification of movement of doctors around the country, he is concerned about new mandatory reporting requirements regarding doctors’ health, which is now legislated in all states except Western Australia where the state Parliament has approved an exemption to the standard.
“The new legislation bundles mandatory notification of health matters with notification of alleged misconduct. Previous state legislation (for example, the Victorian Medical Practice Act 1994 and its successor) placed the reporting onus on treating doctors and required reporting only where an impaired doctor continued to practise against advice,” he says.
But a spokesperson for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which supports the 10 boards representing 10 health professions under the new national scheme, says the threshold that must be met to trigger mandatory notification is high, with only doctors who pose a real risk to public safety having to be reported.
AHPRA acknowledges that the teething problems of moving to the new registration system were inevitable, with 1.5 million data records moving across to the new system by 30 June, limited ability to check the technology ahead of time, and more than 20 000 practitioners renewing online in the first 2 months of the national scheme.
Health practitioners can provide feedback about AHPRA through a form on its website. People with queries or complaints can also phone the Board’s inquiry centre on 1300 419 495.
The Board is working closely with AHPRA to prepare for the next peak in applications, from international medical graduates at the end of the year and from students registering in early 2011.
This story will be published in MJA Careers on 18 October 2010.
Posted 5 October 2010