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Call for Senate committee inquiry on medical indemnity.

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Call for Senate committee inquiry on medical indemnity

Senator Brian Harradine tonight called for a Senate committee inquiry into the medical indemnity issue.

Referral of the legislation to a Committee should be supported to allow full and proper exploration of the most appropriate measures to safeguard both doctors and patients, Senator Harradine said.

Senator Harradine moved to refer the Medical Indemnity (Prudential Supervision and Product Standards) Bill 2002 and the Medical Indemnity (Prudential Supervision and Product Standards) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2002 to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 12 May.

“It is incumbent on the Senate to ensure that the legislation we pass is farsighted enough and the least restrictive as possible”, Senator Harradine said.

He said that the Medical Protection Society of Tasmania has been advised that should this legislation fail to pass by 30 June 2003, it would have no impact on the provision of medical indemnity cover to the profession in 2003/2004. “Supporters of the Government’s model are already offering insurance

products. Re-insurers have indicated that any delays will have no adverse effects upon premiums”, Senator Harradine said.

“The legislation needs to be user friendly in the interests of the health system. We can’t be seen as favouring one approach over another when the case for the former has not been made. At the end of the day, we must put the interests of patients - people who have been left disabled from medical misadventure - first and foremost in our minds as we look at any of these changes. We also need to bear in mind that none of us want a situation where obstetric services begin to vanish in rural and regional areas.

“A broad coalition of medical protection interests contend that this legislation is not ready to be passed. As a legislator, this rings too many alarm bells for me to be prepared to say, ‘Yes, let’s get this through’.

“A number of doctors have expressed the view that the legislation has been drafted with undue haste and fails to achieve the stated objectives; that it could expose patients to a risk of going uncompensated in cases of medical negligence; that it will have a negative impact on bulk billing and medical services in general; that it will lead to a shortage of medical practitioners as many will refuse to continue to work under the proposed changes; that it will increase the cost of medical practice

substantially; and that it denies choice and reduces competition.

“These are the sort of issues which could be explored by a Senate committee hearing.”

The Government, the Opposition and the Democrats were expected to combine to defeat the proposal.

26 March 2003

Senator Brian Harradine, Tel. 02 6277 3735