National Health Law Bulletin – April 2019

29 April 2019

We are delighted to welcome you to the HWL Ebsworth Health Law Bulletin.

The health law practice of HWL Ebsworth is one of the premier legal service providers to the Australian health industry, dedicated to assisting clients with all aspects of their legal needs. Within the national practice group we have a team of partners and lawyers who have market-leading expertise in all aspects of health law and policy including assisting health practitioners and public and private health facilities in civil claims, disciplinary proceedings and coronial inquests and providing advice on regulatory and compliance issues such as clinical governance, privacy, Medicare and ethics. Our team also has extensive experience with advising on clinical protocols, medical practice management and industrial relations as well as providing corporate and commercial advice to health industry participants.

As part of our focus on the health industry, our bulletin addresses a range of topics designed to provide you with an insight into legal and other developments across the nation.

Storing health information on the cloud?

Patient health information has traditionally been stored in a paper file in the doctor’s draw or on a local hard drive.

But as online storage solutions mature, doctors and health organisations are now asking whether health information can be stored in the cloud.

Click here to read more.

Parental rights and access to a child’s medical records

When dealing with a child’s medical information, health care providers often find themselves in the middle of separated, divorced and feuding parents. This raises issues about which parent has the right to access their child’s medical records.

There are legal and practical considerations that need to be taken into consideration when releasing a child’s medical information to a parent or guardian.

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Litigation landscape in the ACT – where are we now and where are we heading?

There has been a tangible shift in judicial decisions of the ACT Supreme Court in recent years, which may be due to a number of NSW judicial officers having been appointed to the bench.

Currently, the court is examining liability and causation more closely, such that defendants and insurers are achieving greater success at hearing.

There have been two recent medical negligence decisions of the ACT Supreme Court which found the plaintiffs failed to discharge the onus of proof – which should serve as some comfort for doctors and insurers in the face of an ever increasing number of medical negligence claims.

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When casual employees aren’t really casual

Many employers, including medical practices, employ casual employees who are often longstanding members of their workforces. Do these employees really satisfy the criteria for casual employment? A recent decision of the Full Federal Court of Australia (Court) in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene [2018] FCAFC 131 should prompt medical practices to review their employment contracts.

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Practices to share in repayment of Medicare debts

In an effort to improve the rate of recovery of debts owed for incorrect or false claiming under the MBS, the government has passed legislation granting Medicare enhanced debt-recovery powers. Medicare can now offset up to 20% of MBS benefits payable to a practitioner against debts owed or garnish the salaries of employed practitioners to recover debts. From 1 July 2019, Medicare will be able to determine that debts for false or misleading MBS billings are to be shared between the rendering practitioner and a practice, hospital or employer which engaged the practitioner.

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A new website to disclose the costs of medical specialist services

After a Ministerial Advisory Committee on Out-Of-Pocket Costs found a minority of specialists had been charging patients very large fees or ‘hidden’ administrative or booking fees, the National Minister for Health announced a national strategy to address the findings.

A new website will disclose the costs of medical specialist services under an opt-in system proposed to tackle concerns surrounding out of pocket costs.

Click here to read more.

Apologies and liability

Government and legislative bodies, Insurers and their members are becoming more aware of the effectiveness of an apology in resolving civil disputes before they become litigated.

Traditionally, an apology was viewed as an admission of guilt that courts may have seen as evidence for ruling in a claimant’s favour. However, there has yet to be a medical negligence case in which an apology was used as evidence and impacted liability.

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Tax Insight: Annual leave loading & superannuation – ATO compliance approach

The ATO has recently published a public position on the superannuation treatment of annual leave loading entitlements as well as their ‘look forward’ compliance approach to the previous superannuation treatment of annual leave loading entitlements. Our Taxation Group has provided an insight into the anticipated public statement.

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Clinical negligence & novus actus interveniens

Where the negligent act of A sets the scene for the negligent act of B, who transforms the outcome of A’s conduct into something of far greater consequence, is A responsible for the loss associated with B’s conduct?

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