Australia: Health Related Critical Judgments, Legislation, Press Releases and News Items

Health Alert 7 June 2010
Last Updated: 8 June 2010
Article by Nigel Preston

Welcome to this week's edition of Health Alert.The Health Alert is transmitted on Monday of each week (unless there is a public holiday on Monday).

Health Alert is a summary of the critical judgments, legislation, press releases and news items which have come to our attention each week.Many of the summaries will contain a hyperlink.

If an item is of specialinterest, we may insert commentary into the body of Health Alert.However in general, Health Alert is a quick and effective means of ensuring that you are aware of significant recent changes with little or no commentary from ourselves.

If you would like to include a colleague or contact on our distribution list, or be removed from the list and not receive further issues from us, please contact Anne Arfi at anne.arfi@dlaphillipsfox.comwith the relevant contact details.


Western Australia. District Court

Smith -v- Minister For Health [2010] WADC 77 (28 May 2010)

This case concerned a claim for damages in relation to the effects of the negligent calibration of an intrathecal pump which caused the plaintiff to suffer an overdose of hydromorphone and which then allegedly resulted in a lumbar disc prolapse. In the District Court of Western Australia the plaintiff, Ms Tracy Smith, was awarded judgment and damages for $237,530.

In this case, the defendant had admitted liability in relation to negligently calibrating the intrathecal pump so that it caused the plaintiff to suffer an overdose of hydromorphone. The plaintiff consequently suffered severe illness for four days from 1 March 2006 to 4 March 2006, including vomiting. What was at issue was whether there was a sufficient casual connection between the injury the plaintiff sustained and the negligent calibration, more specifically, that the plaintiff's lumbo-sacral disc protusion was caused by the vomiting that resulted from the overdose. After this event, the plaintiff required surgery to heal her disc protusion.

In assessing the causal connection the Court took into consideration expert medical evidence (including evidence showing the possibility that a small event such as vomiting could directly cause or aggravate such an injury), hospital records (after the plaintiff had been admitted on various occasions, including on 4 March 2006), the plaintiff's general medical history including her prior history of back pain and accounts from various family members of the plaintiff. The judge held that although the plaintiff did suffer back and leg pain on the evening of 3 March 2006, it was not as severe as alleged and it improved over the following days. Furthermore, although the plaintiff suffered from chronic pain, now including lower back and leg pain, this pain could no longer be attributable to the disc injury but was more part of the plaintiff's general pain presentation, which was also affected by her dependence on narcotics.

The Court awarded the plaintiff damages of $237,530. In making the assessment of damages, the judge took into consideration the fact that the plaintiff, despite the injury, would never have worked in a full time capacity, the plaintiff's prior history of suffering from back pain, her unreliability as a witness in relation to her medical history, her history of overusing narcotics, that there was little evidence that she suffered from severe back pain at the time of the overdose of hydromorphone, and the fact that it was not certain that she would require future medical treatment for her lower back injury.

The damages awarded comprised of $55,000 for non-pecuniary loss, $42,000 for past loss of earning capacity, $5,610 for interest, $100,000 for future loss of earning capacity, $8,800 for past services, and $25,000 for future services.



Health Practitioner Regulation (Consequential Amendments) Act 2010 (No. 48 of 2010) - Assent 31/05/2010 [Not available online yet]

Therapeutic Goods (Charges) Amendment Act 2010 (No. 53 of 2010) - Assent 31/05/2010 [Not available online yet]

Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2009 Measures No. 3) Act 2010 (No. 54 of 2010) Assent 31/05/2010 [Not available online yet]

National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Bill 2010 - C2010B00117 - Health - A Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act 1953, and for related purposes

Midwife Professional Indemnity (Commonwealth Contribution) Scheme Rules 2010 - F2010L01548 - Health - These Rules support the establishment of a Government-supported professional indemnity insurance scheme for midwives.

Midwife Professional Indemnity (Run-off Cover Support Payment) Rules 2010 - F2010L01549 - Health - These Rules give effect to the Government's new professional indemnity scheme for eligible midwives.

Instrument of Establishment of the Medical Training Review Panel No. 1 of 2010 - F2010L01418 - Health - This instrument revokes and replaces the Health Insurance Act 1973 - Establishment of the Medical Training Review Panel under subsection 3GC(1) (26/06/1997) and enables the number of members of the Medical Training Review Panel to be increased, provides more flexibility in the arrangements for a deputy chairperson to preside at meetings and adds provisions which are usual for statutory bodies.

National Health Act 1953 - Amendment special arrangements under subsection 100(1) - Chemotherapy Pharmaceuticals Access Program (No. PB 50 of 2010) - F2010L01489 - Health - These Arrangements amend the National Health Act 1953 - Special Arrangements under subsection 100(1) - Chemotherapy Pharmaceuticals Access Program (No. PB 55 of 2009) to provide for the deletion of a form of a chemotherapy pharmaceutical available at public hospitals to non-admitted patients, day-admitted patients or patients on discharge.

National Health Act 1953 - Amendment special arrangements under subsection 100(1) - Highly Specialised Drugs Program (No. PB 49 of 2010) - F2010L01488 - Health - These Arrangements amend the National Health Act 1953 - Special Arrangements under subsection 100(1) - highly specialised drugs program (No. PB 54 of 2009) to provide for the addition of two forms of highly specialised drugs available at private hospitals to non-admitted patients, day admitted patients or patients on discharge.

Health Insurance Act 1973 - Declaration of Quality Assurance Activity under section 124X (QAA No. 1/2010) - F2010L01476 - Health - This instrument declares the National Breast Cancer Audit as a qualified privilege activity.

New South Wales

Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 - 2/6/2010 - Intro Assembly

South Australia

Mental Health (Repeal of Harbouring Offence) Amendment Bill 2010 - private member's Bill, Legislative Council second reading speech on 26 May 2010.


Therapeutic Goods (Victoria) Act 2010 (No. 25 of 2010) - Assent 1/06/2010 Gazette S 200, 1 June 2010


Australia. Department of Health & Ageing

Media Releases

Australia. Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

The Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits was updated on 1 June 2010 and the Summary of Changes can be found on the New amended and deleted items page. Detailed information regarding additions and alterations of restrictions is now available in the fact sheet, New Listings and Changes To PBS 1 June 2010.

Australia. Therapeutic Goods Administration

Australian Public Assessment Report (AusPAR) for prescription medicines (added Caffeine citrate)

Prescription medicines business process reform project (added TGA-Industry Working Group (IWG), outcomes of meeting, 30 April 2010)

Medicines Safety Update No.3; 2010 (new)

Revised arrangements for the scheduling of medicines and chemicals (updated)

Consultation: Draft regulations to implement the revised scheduling framework (added copies of public submissions and feedback to public submissions)

Australia. National Health & Medical Research Council

Fund to Power Stem Cell Science Breakthroughs     1 JUNE 2010 - The Australian Government will establish a stem cell research fund to boost research in a field that may hold the key to curing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. »View Media Release

NHMRC Tracker 28 May 2010 - NHMRC Strategic Plan for 2010 - 2012 - The NHMRC Strategic Plan for 2010-2012 has been tabled in Parliament (25 May) and released on the NHMRC website. The key objectives of the Plan, reflecting the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992, are to:

  • Raise the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia.
  • Foster the development of consistent health standards between the various States and Territories.
  • Foster medical research and training and public health research and training throughout Australia.
  • Foster consideration of ethical issues relating to health.

The Plan also sets out the NHMRC's strategy for health and medical research, which can... - See full article...

Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 - The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 is the culmination of several years' development of national indicators in relation to prisoner health in Australia. This first national report shows that prisoners ... Published 3 June 2010.

Women and heart disease: Cardiovascular profile of women in Australia lang="EN-AU">- Cardiovascular disease is Australia's biggest killer. This report focuses on its impact on the health of Australian women - a group who may not be aware of how significant a ... Published 1 June 2010.

Women and heart disease: summary - Cardiovascular disease is Australia's biggest killer. This report provides a summary of cardiovascular disease and its impact on the health of Australian women. Women and heart disease: summary presents the ... Published 1 June 2010.

Australia. National Blood Authority

Patient Blood Management Guidelines Development Review

Australian Capital Territory. Department of Health

ACT Quality in Healthcare Awards (1 June 2010) - Applications are now open for the 2010 round of the ACT Quality in Healthcare Awards.

New South Wales. Department of Health

Media releases

Policy directives

Information bulletin

Control guidelines

Northern Territory. Department of Health & Community Services

Media releases

Queensland. Department of Health

Media releases

Hendra Virus Infection factsheet

Australian Bat Lyssavirus factsheet

Queensland Tuberculosis Control Program (new site)

Immunisation program and Sexual Health authorisations

South Australia. Department of Health

2 June 2010 - Update on influenza vaccination program for children with medical risk factors (pdf 50kb) - Public Health Information

Media releases

  • Port Pirie blood lead levels - Wednesday, 02 June 2010 - The Minister for Health and the Minister for Environment and Conservation have demanded an explanation and plan of action following an increase in the number of children in Port Pirie with raised levels of lead in their blood. read more...
  • New measures to snub out smoking - Monday, 31 May 2010 - The last example of tobacco advertising will be banned in South Australia. Read more... 

South Australia. Health & Community Services Complaints Commissioner

Development of the HCSCC Charter of Rights

HCSCC Charter Principles

Victoria. Department of Health

Media releases

VICNISS - eBulletin - Please click here for the most recent eBulletin distributed in June.

Maintenance standards for Victorian Health Facilities (358kb, pdf)

Heatwave ready resource residential aged care services

Healthy choices - 31 May 2010 - The Victorian Government has released 'Healthy Choices: Food and drink guidelines for Victorian public hospitals'.

Western Australia. Department of Health

Media releases

New Zealand. Ministry of Health

4 Jun: Seroprevalence of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in New Zealand - The Ministry commissioned study, conducted by ESR, estimates that 1.26 million or 29% of New Zealanders were immune to the pandemic influenza virus by March this year.

3 Jun: Review of pharmacy recalls- The Minister of Health has announced a review of pharmacy recalls that will be completed within a month.

3 Jun: Methodology Report for the 2007/08 New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey - The 2007/08 New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey (NZADUS) measured self-reported alcohol, illicit and other drug use for recreational purposes.

New Zealand. Medsafe

Letter to Healthcare Professionals - Changes to the classification and labelling requirements for codeine-containing products

United States of America. Department of Health & Human Services

HHS Awards $83.9 Million in Recovery Act Funds to Expand Use of Health Information Technology - HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $83.9 million in grants to help networks of health centers adopt electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technology (HIT) systems.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Statement on Progress in Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections

Australian Medical Association

Tax relief for rural doctors 3 June 2010 - The AMA today welcomed the Government's updated advice that revised rural incentive payments to rural doctors will not be subject to 46.5 per cent PAYE withholding tax.

More support needed for doctors working in aged care 31 May 2010 - lang="EN-AU">The AMA today called for more Government support for doctors to provide medical care to frail, elderly residents in aged care facilities. AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said that he is not surprised by the alarming reports of poor care being delivered in some residential aged care facilities and that our senior citizens deserve better.

AMA National Conference 2010 - President's Award 28 May 2010 - lang="EN-AU">AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, tonight presented the AMA President's Award to Queensland obstetrician and gynaecologist, Professor Caroline de Costa. The President's Award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution towards fostering the objectives of the AMA in pursuit of a better health system for Australia.

AMA National Conference 2010 - Excellent work by State and Territory AMAs recognised 28 May 2010 - AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, tonight presented the Presidents and CEOs of the State and Territory AMA organisations with awards for outstanding work in lobbying and communication. The categories for the awards were Best State Publication, Most Innovative Use of Website or New Media, Best Lobby Campaign, and Best Public Health Campaign.

Stronger voice for doctors in running public hospitals 28 May 2010 - lang="EN-AU">AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that doctors would have a stronger voice in the management of public hospitals following the Government's announcement of Lead Clinicians Groups in Local Hospital Networks. Dr Pesce said the AMA had been seeking clarification of promised greater clinician input to public hospital decision-making since the Government announced its Local Hospital Networks policy. "Doctors are best placed to know the needs of clinicians, other health professionals and patients in public hospitals," Dr Pesce said.

AMA National Conference 2010 Presidential Statement 28 May 2010 - lang="EN-AU">I can say with confidence that we have been engaged and we remain engaged.  We are not beholden to the Government – we advise the Government. This does not mean that we get everything we want, nor does it mean we are ignored or paid lip service. Engagement has delivered positive outcomes for the AMA, the medical profession, and our patients.

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