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Future health policies that may affect you

20 December 2018

At MPS we care about the environment you work in and throughout 2018 we have been working to share our experience and expertise in order to influence policies that may have an impact on your practice and the medicolegal system.

This year has seen a significant range of policy initiatives that we are closely monitoring in order to ensure that your concerns and our medicolegal experience are being recognised.

National Health Insurance Bill

National Health Insurance (NHI) is a financing system that seeks to ensure that all citizens (and legal long-term residents) are provided with essential healthcare, regardless of their employment status and ability to make a direct monetary contribution to the NHI Fund.

We welcome initiatives that aim to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all. We do however have significant concerns that the current draft Bill is silent on the subject of medical and dental indemnity.  As it currently stands, it is not clear where the responsibility for indemnity would lie.

The Bill will no doubt continue to be closely scrutinised and we will work to ensure that the lack of clarity around indemnity arrangements is addressed and accounted for in the new legislation. Doctors need to have certainty over indemnity arrangements and we are engaging with the Government with the aim of supporting the development of appropriate mechanisms for malpractice liabilities.

Health Market Inquiry

The Competition Commission has conducted a Health Market Inquiry (HMI) in the private healthcare sector. The Commission believes that there are features of the sector that prevent, distort or restrict competition.

We have been engaging with the inquiry to highlight the impact of rising clinical negligence costs on doctors and the urgent need for legal reform.

The HMI report recognises that “the increase in the size of medical malpractice claims, which, together with the increase in medical indemnity, are a barrier to enter medical practice.”

At a time when the healthcare system is already facing tough financial pressures and must make difficult decisions about how it allocates its limited resources, there is an urgent need to review how money is being spent, and we welcome efforts such as this Inquiry to address certain imbalances.

The rising number and cost of claims continues to be an area that needs urgent attention. There are wide range of complex factors that are driving the increase in the cost of clinical negligence claims. This is why a range of action is needed, including education and risk management to tackle claims from happening in the first place, a change of culture and systems so issues are dealt with much more effectively, as well as reforms that would reduce legal costs.

State Liability Amendment Bill

This Bill is a reaction to increasing clinical negligence claims against the State by patients for negligence occurred in public healthcare. It contemplates that patients who claim from the State for medical negligence will be restricted in terms of the type of award they will receive, i.e. the structured payment of a successful claim and the periodic payment/s for future expenses rather than lump sum payouts. 

While changes to the State Liability Act are a positive step in trying to tackle the costs associated with clinical negligence, it should be noted that it will not completely solve the root cause of the problem. We would like to see the implementation of legal reforms that would have a much bigger impact on reducing costs to both the state and private sector.

This includes, among others, a limit on general damages and a limit on claims for loss of future earnings and care costs.

Looking ahead

We expect that each of these debates will continue well into 2019 and we will continue to represent members’ interests when engaging with the Government and others. If you have any comments or questions we would love to hear from you. 

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