A NATIONAL system of registration for doctors is being finalised by federal, state and territory governments, which will help prevent cases such as that of Jayant Patel in Queensland and the “Butcher of Bega” in NSW.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said the Council of Australian Governments was expected to sign off soon on a national registration system for health professionals.
“It will make a difference to ensure high standards across the whole country,” she said on ABC television. “It’s no solace to the people who are victims of the treatment for now but it needs to be proceeded with.”
The current system for registration of health professionals is done by medical boards in each state and territory. The COAG proposal is to replace this with a national process overseen by nine separate boards for all the different health professions.
Ms Roxon’s comments were made in relation to the so-called Butcher of Bega, deregistered former doctor Graeme Stephen Reeves, who allegedly performed unnecessary and sometimes horrific gynaecological procedures at Bega and Pambula hospitals on the NSW south coast over several months in 2002.
Self-regulation in most professions has been problematic, so it’s beyond time to have an external oversight system properly put in place for the health professions. It’s only shameful that it took a case as full of blatant system failures as that of Dr Reeves to finally get some action.
Interestingly, I hadn’t heard this before in all the recent coverage (emphasis mine):
The board maintains Mr Reeves was able to dodge the restriction because he moved from Sydney to take up a new post in Bega and at the time legislation prevented the board from passing on details of the ban to his new employer.
Kudos also to the NSW Government for planning to institute a system of mandatory reporting for medical personnel of medical misconduct by their colleagues. Such systems have been recommended by watchdog groups for years (decades?) of course, and who knows how many unnecessary harms could have been avoided if such systems had been in place for all that time, but at least it’s finally happening.
Next: regulating the specialist medical colleges so that they can no longer unreasonably inflate their incomes by maintaining an artificial scarcity of medical specialists. Isn’t competition meant to be healthy in a free market?