Mandatory notification – a cure worse than the illness?

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Why is NSW law interpreted as requiring mandatory notification of all involuntary hospital admissions of nurses and doctors to their respective councils and to AHPRA, while the rest of Australia does not require this? In the latest Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), Dr Minh Le Cong outlines why he thinks this is a matter of concern for all health practitioners.

minh_le_cong official_0Dr Le Cong tells the tale of a nurse called SJ, who after a relationship break-up became increasingly depressed and sought help from several doctors and psychologists. Her depression worsened and she became suicidal. She stopped working as a nurse and was admitted to hospital where she tried to kill herself. After this, she became an involuntary patient and the treating psychiatrist told her he was obliged to notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Dr Le Cong writes: “It must be reinforced here that Australian national mandatory reporting law does not specifically require all involuntary admissions of health practitioners to be reported. … On further investigation, it appears this issue is unique to NSW and has been an area of debate ever since national reporting laws were introduced in 2010.”

“…Certainly, [this nurse] found it very difficult to trust future treating doctors when trying to report her suicidal feelings and thoughts, as there was constant threat of being reported again to AHPRA. … Clearly the law is intended to provide protection to the public from impaired health practitioners, as well as direct treatment and health care for the practitioner, but the tragedy is that it engenders lack of trust in treating professionals.”

stressed-fatigued“[The nurse] has not been deregistered and can still work as a nurse in NSW. She has had to undertake a health assessment and appear before a review panel. The stress and trauma of this entire process has made for an incredibly difficult recovery from her depression and she continues to lack trust in NSW health professionals, given the system of reporting there.”

“Sure, lets protect the public, but let’s not make the cure worse than the illness.”

What do you think? Are you in NSW or another state or territory?

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Why is this attached to NSW only? Nurses are under enough pressure with the demands of work, workplace bullying, stresses of their home lives and now having to inform APRHA of involuntary admissions and front a review panel. It is no wonder some NSW Health Nurses come across as nasty nurses… Nurses help the sick get better but who helps the nurses when they are unwell?

  2. Grossly unfair, counterproductive and harmful. More that that, it’s DISCRIMINATORY. How do we go about changing this situation?

  3. Possibly it is actually wise to notify all “involuntary admissions” to a panel of experts for review. However, this is only useful if resolved promptly and in a timely way and by other health professionals who can protect both the nurse and the community. Especially since the nurse is also a “community member”.
    And if useful in NSW, why not implement nationally? And for all nurses admitted to non-psychiatric hospitals with head injuries or other injury that might affect their professional responsibility.
    For this system to work effectively “in the real world” these matters must be dealt with very promptly. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
    Currently the NSW Nurses Council seems overwhelmed with cases, so that decisions are very delayed …..effectively becoming a witch-hunt, where even the innocent are subjected to months of uncertainty and bureaucratic demands.
    Senator Nick Xenophon in South Australia is conducting an enquiry into unfair use of AHPRA by doctors deliberately raising false complaints against their colleagues /vexatious claims. Perhaps this matter will require a Royal Commission and perhaps this should include AHPRA’s/the NMC’s response to nurses too.
    I have recently had to wait 6 months to be reassured by the NMC that a complaint against me was false and that “no further action was required”. How much more difficult if I had been trying to recover from a mental illness.
    Have other members felt that AHPRA decisions were unduly delayed?

    • It is difficult if you are trying to recover from depression, decisions are dragged out. You hang in limbo not knowing what is happening or how long it will take.

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