Health Professions Registration (Repeal) Bill 2012

Written on the 24 May 2012

I am pleased to be able to speak on the Health Professions Registration (Repeal) Bill 2012. I thank both Mr Jennings and Ms Hartland for indicating their support for this bill.


As highlighted by Mr Jennings, it is a straightforward piece of legislation that will come into effect and put in alignment two health professions currently working in the state of Victoria under a national scheme. The bill repeals the Health Professions Registration Act 2005 due to the regulation of Chinese medicine practitioners and medical radiation practitioners under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, and it will make minor and consequential amendments to other acts.


As highlighted by Mr Jennings, a number of professions have already come into the national scheme. Victoria passed the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 to enable the 10 professions highlighted by Mr Jennings -- namely, nursing and midwifery, dentistry, medicine, optometry, physiotherapy, pharmacy, podiatry, psychology, osteopathy and chiropractic -- to function in that manner.


This bill, as I said, will come into play on 1 July 2012, and as has been highlighted previously, due to regulatory and reporting requirements these two professions will remain under the existing act until 1 July.


Currently 136 000 Victorian health practitioners are registered and regulated under the national scheme. Turning to the background of that national scheme, in December 2008 health ministers from around the country -- in Victoria the minister was Daniel Andrews, the member for Mulgrave and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly -- agreed to transfer the registration of health practitioners from state boards to national ones. This required all states to pass legislation. As I have already highlighted, on 1 July 2010 the 10 national boards undertook that process and 4 more boards are scheduled to come into line on 1 July this year. As part of this transition the state boards were required to transfer their assets to the national boards, and in Victoria some $27.5 million was transferred by the 10 Victorian boards.


As I have told the house in the past, at that time a number of significant complaints and challenges came into play with the registration process under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. This caused significant concern to many health practitioners who at the time had uncertainty about registration and being able to work, and for many health institutions there was uncertainty about their workforce being able to be registered and to work. I think the Minister for Health in this state, Mr Davis, did a great job in pressuring the federal Minister for Health and Ageing at the time, Nicola Roxon, to ensure that the process was ironed out and became far more practical, because it was completely unsatisfactory for those health professionals and indeed for the health institutions and facilities that need a reliable and legal workforce.


As Mr Jennings pointed out, these regulatory bodies enable the community to have confidence in the quality of health care that is delivered, and I think we should be proud of the health care that is delivered in this state -- certainly it is the envy of many other health institutions and organisations around the world. I too pay credit to all the health professionals who provide such high-quality care in this state.


The national board will allow the various health professionals that I indicated to work in any state under a single registration process. It is important for the health profession to have flexibility in the workforce and for individuals to be able to progress their careers without extra regulatory burden.


This legislation relates to two health professions: Chinese medicine and medical radiation practice. I am pleased that the Medical Radiation Practitioners Board of Victoria has come out and indicated its strong support for this reform.


Currently there are around 3800 registered radiation practitioners in Victoria, and approximately 500 of them are practising and doing some extremely good work in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region. There are a number of very large health institutions that incorporate many of these practitioners, including the Alfred hospital in Prahran. Monash Medical Centre has a number of practitioners who go into the areas of Bentleigh and Oakleigh and service those communities extremely well. In addition, there are a number of very good private organisations which have radiation practitioners involved in their facilities and which also provide a great service to the Victorian community.


When I was doing a bit of background research in relation to the bill I was interested to note that currently Victoria is the only state where Chinese medicine has been regulated. This started after an extensive process of consultation in 1995. As has been said, in 2002 Victoria became the first state -- and it is still the only state or territory in Australia -- in which the practice of Chinese medicine was regulated as a discrete health profession. Various individuals take Chinese medicine as part of their regime. I think that needs to be taken into consideration, and this bill certainly acknowledges the work that practitioners in that particular discipline undertake.


I would like to make a few comments in relation to Mr Jennings's contribution about, I think he said, the level of provision of health care to Victorians under this current government. I remind the chamber that when the government was elected in 2010 we inherited a fiscal position that constrained many of our services, with health being one of those very important services. I am pleased that in this year's budget the government has increased health spending to $13.68 billion, and that is a significant amount. Mr Jennings spoke about the growth requirements. I agree there have been significant growth requirements, but I also remind him that hundreds of thousands of people came to the state of Victoria when he was in government, and the lack of planning in relation to infrastructure and service provision should be noted because clearly we are dealing with those issues that were left for us -- our inheritance. Mr Jennings talked about our inheritance. We are dealing with significant financial constraints; that is our inheritance, and Victorians are very aware of that on a daily basis.


This year's budget also provides an additional $1.3 billion in funding over that provided in the last year of the former government. It provides significant spending capacity in the area of maintaining our services. I think it demonstrates a real commitment to health service delivery in this state and to Victorian patients. Victorian patients understand that when we came to government the health system was under extreme stress.


As I said at the outset of my contribution, I am pleased that both the opposition and the Greens will be supporting the bill. I will not go into the minor amendments; they are straightforward. This is a straightforward bill which will bring into alignment those other health professionals that are servicing our community extremely well. I commend the bill to the house, and I look forward to its speedy passage.

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