The AMA is again calling for changes to mandatory reporting which would break down barriers to getting mental health help
At both Federal and State/Territory level, the Australian Medical Association has urged the COAG Health Council to adopt the West Australian model of mandatory reporting provisions for health care professionals seeking treatment for mental health and stress-related conditions.
AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, says that the next meeting of the COAG Health Council is critical for mandatory reporting policy.
“The next meeting is a rare opportunity to finally fix the legislation that for too long has stopped doctors seeking the help they need,” Dr Gannon says.
“The entire AMA is unequivocal in its support for what is needed, and the medical profession has waited a long time for this opportunity.
“It is now up to Ministers to deliver on behalf of patients, doctors, and the other regulated professions.
“If they only tinker at the edges – or attempt to reword the existing model – they will only reinforce the existing barriers that are blocking doctors from seeking support.”
An alternative proposal, based on the current Queensland model “does not work,” he says.
“The principle underpinning the WA model – an exemption from reporting for impairment – has been proven to work.
“The WA model does not pose a risk to patients. There is evidence that it does help doctors.”
Dr Gannon says that doctors deserve the right to access health services, just like their patients.
“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 for their medical registration,” Dr Gannon said.
“The mandatory reporting laws have a twofold 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 necessary health care, 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 WA model has given doctors the confidence to seek help when they need it, and there is no evidence that it has diminished patient safety, Dr Gannon says.
It has also been recommended in the Independent Review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, a Senate report, and a number of academic studies.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has also made a submission to the COAG Health Council calling for the adoption of the WA model.
PSA cited the National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students, which found that 33% of pharmacists surveyed identified “impact on registration and right to practice” as a barrier to seeking help.
“Pharmacists should be able to seek treatment for health issues confidentially without fear that their professional careers will be at risk,” PSA president Dr Shane Jackson said earlier this month.