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Qld to set doctor disclosure obligations -

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Qld to set doctor disclosure obligations

Reporter: Nicole Bond

ELEANOR HALL: Queensland is set to become the first state in Australia to put in place a national
standard on disclosure obligations for doctors in all of its hospitals.

Under the new rules, doctors throughout the state will be ethically obliged to give a full account
to their patients when they misdiagnose their diseases or make a mistake on the operating table.

The system was trialled in the Queensland centre of Bundaberg, in response to the Dr Jayant Patel
scandal that saw dozens of patients allegedly maimed and killed by the rogue doctor.

Now this policy of 'open disclosure' is to be adopted across the country, as Nicole Bond reports
from Bundaberg.

NICOLE BOND: Bundaberg in south-east Queensland's claim to fame until recently was solely the rum
distilled in the town. Now it's synonymous with the name Dr Jayant Patel.

So, it's no fluke the Bundaberg Base Hospital was chosen to trial a program where doctors were
urged to apologise to patients if they'd made a mistake.

Bundaberg Base Hospital was where the now notorious Dr Jayant Patel operated from.

The former surgeon is behind bars in the US state of Oregon while a court considers his extradition
to Australia on manslaughter and fraud charges.

They stem from operations which Dr Patel is alleged to have botched leaving patients maimed,
incapacitated and in some cases dead.

The State's Health Minister Stephen Robertson says open disclosure has been successful overseas,
with 80 per cent less litigation claims reported in some instances.

STEPHEN ROBERTSON: Where a serious issue has occurred, that is communicated to that patient
immediately, that issue is discussed, an apology is offered they are told what has happened, why it
happened and what's being done to prevent it from happening again.

NICOLE BOND: The practice is also carried out in New South Wales.

But there are concerns this form of open disclosure doesn't go far enough.

Former Patel patient and president of a patient support group Beryl Crosby, is a strong advocate of
open disclosure, but she says it needs to be mandatory and penalties imposed on doctors who don't
explain their actions.

BERYL CROSBY: If we're talking about patient safety, I don't see the problem with mandatory
reporting. If you're going to change the culture, don't do it slowly, change the culture. The only
person that would object to mandatory reporting are the people who aren't reporting.

NICOLE BOND: But Health Minister Stephen Robertson says its far too soon to consider legislating
the process.

STEPHEN ROBERTSON: I think it's best that we go down this way, this approach, to get cooperation
and enthusiasm amongst clinicians rather than just using the big stick at this point in time.

NICOLE BOND: Even without the threat of penalties doctors themselves aren't convinced open
disclosure will help.

The Australian Medical Association's Vice President Dr Gary Speck says if the objective is cultural
change there's already been a shift away from the traditional doctor patient relationship.

Dr Speck says it's unnecessary to formalise what's now routine.

GARY SPECK: To add an extra layer of bureaucracy and to try to formalise something that should
happen and be something that flows, doesn't make any particular sense to me.

NICOLE BOND: But Beryl Crosby is sceptical of the AMA's claims about doctors being forthcoming with
their errors.

She says doctors need to be accountable and the only way to do it is to force them to own up to
their mistakes.

BERYL CROSBY: All the complaint bodies that we've got around Australia, there are patients
complaining because something has gone wrong and no body told them. There's evidence there that not
enough doctors are doing it.

ELEANOR HALL: Beryl Crosby is the President of the Bundaberg Hospital Patients Support Group. She
was speaking there to Nicole Bond.