26 September 2023

New health laws passed to protect patients

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Canberrans are to gain greater protections when accessing health services in the ACT under new laws announced by the Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith.

Introducing the Human Rights Commission Amendment Bill 2023, Ms Stephen-Smith said the Bill would enable the implementation of the National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the National Code set a minimum standard of conduct and practice for health workers who were either not already registered under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) or who provided services unrelated to their registration.

She said the National Code aimed to provide consumers with the confidence that they were receiving healthcare guided by safe and ethical practice.

“While the vast majority of healthcare workers practice in a safe, competent and ethical manner, it is important to have a robust set of standards and regulations in place to protect consumers and the wider community,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“This National Code of Conduct will move to address gaps in the professional regulation, skills and credentialling of healthcare workers,” she said.

“With the implementation of the National Code, consumers will have more options for resolving disputes with healthcare workers and seeing appropriate action taken.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT Health Services Commissioner would investigate complaints and take action in circumstances where the community may be put at risk.

She said this included the power to act against a healthcare worker who had had prohibition orders placed on them in another State or Territory and were now operating in the ACT.

“It is expected the National Code of Conduct will come into effect six months after legislation has passed,” the Minister said.

“This allows time for government and non-government healthcare providers to prepare for the change and understand their obligations,” she said.

“The proposed amendments to the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 brings the ACT into alignment with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland, who have already implemented the National Conduct for Health Care Workers.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said health occupations covered by the National Code included allied health assistants, herbalists, counsellors, massage therapists, alternative medicine practitioners, dental technicians and assistants, speech pathologists, social workers, dietitians and pharmacy assistants.

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