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Thursday, 27 October 1949

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - I shall not mention the name of that medical practitioner, but he is a member of the British Medical Association. The right honorable gentleman quoted an extract from the minutes of a conference between the Minister for Health and representatives of the British Medical Association. The medical practitioner made a false statement about the Minister for Health, and the right honorable member for Cowper repeated it.

Sir Earle Page - I did not make a false statement.

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The right honorable gentleman read a passage from the minutes of the conference.

Sir Earle Page - That is so. It was the report of some remarks by the Minister.

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The right honorable gentleman did not read a subsequent passage in which the Minister made his meaning perfectly clear. The first statement that the Minister made was as follows : -

I think for checking purposes it would be necessary to ensure that the practitioner keep clinical records of their patients. I understand that is the general practice now and it may be a principle. These clinical records would be produced to the Adjudication Committees in the case of dispute. For the purpose of checking accounts from time to time, they would be subject to inspection by medical practitioners of the department, not laymen.

To clarify the position, the Minister later made the following statement : -

It has been pointed out to me that, in my opening remarks, I may have left the impression that the checking of accounts by the department would depend upon the clinical records kept by the doctors. I did not mean to convey that at all. All I meant to say was that clinical records would be available to medical practitioners in the case of disputed accounts and also that if, as between the department and the doctor, it became necessary to look at clinical records, that would only be done by a medical practitioner and not by a lay person. I did not want to convey the impression to the meeting that the checking of accounts was dependent upon clinical records at all.

Sir Earle Page - I read that passage.

Mr HOLLOWAY - The right honorable gentleman definitely said that oneof the grounds on which he based his opposition to the bill was that government officials would be empowered to demand the clinical records of medical practitioners. The bill does not give that authority to the Department of Health. The only way in which such records would be made available would be in the event of a dispute between a patient and a medical practitioner. Such a dispute might not occur in a million years. I believe the Minister for Health. I have been acquainted with him long enough to know that his word can be accepted. I am doubtful whether we can always accept the word of the right honorable member for Cowper.

Mr White - That is a nice thing to say.

Mr HOLLOWAY - I mean what I say, and that goes for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), too.

Mr Harrison - This is an example of the brotherly spirit.

Mr White - The Minister does as the " Commos " tell him.

Mr HOLLOWAY - I have now explained the purposes of the clause, and I ask the committee to agree to it.

Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -

That the question be now put.

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