The Medical Board of Australia has been given new powers to immediately suspend or impose conditions on doctors even if they are not an immediate threat to patient safety.
The powers allow the watchdog to take immediate action against any doctor on the grounds of “public interest”.
However, the definition of public interest has not been given a specific definition in the legislative amendments which passed in Queensland Parliament this week.
The only example cited by the amendments is when a doctor is charged with a serious criminal offence unrelated to their practice for which “immediate action is required to be taken to maintain public confidence in the provision of services by health practitioners”.
The change is significant.
Under the existing law, the Medical Board of Australia can only take immediate action if the doctor or medical student’s conduct, performance or health poses a “serious risk” that requires immediate intervention to protect public health or safety.
The amendment, following its passage through the Queensland Parliament, will apply in all states and territories except WA and SA, which must pass their own laws to effect the changes.
In a statement this week AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the changes mean “extra protection for the public”.
“The changes will strengthen our management of notifications so we can better meet community expectations of regulation to ensure patient safety,” he said.
The amendment will also apply to all other health professions regulated by AHPRA.
Other changes to the National Law include the national registration of paramedics, which is expected to start in 2018.
Meanwhile, the Medical Board has also raised its annual registration fee to $742.
The last financial year was the first year since AHPRA began that fees had not increased, remaining frozen on $724. The fresh hike is an increase of 2%.