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Health Bulletin

Russell Kennedy Health Insights 18 December 2018

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

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Company fined over importing unapproved cosmetic therapeutic goods

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ESCHOICE Pty Ltd, an Australia Company, has been fined over $25,000 after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) issued them with an infringement notice.

The company had allegedly been importing unapproved medicines and medical devices for use in cosmetic procedures. The TGA has been cracking down on illegal cosmetic goods after the death of a woman in Sydney at a clinic last year.

The TGA has also published additional material for use by those who are considering undergoing a cosmetic medical procedure such as cosmetic injections and procedures involving dermal fillers. The guidance material is intended to educate the public on some of the risks associated so they can make an informed decision.

Read the TGA’s media release, and access the resources on cosmetic procedures, here.

Senate Selected Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia

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The Senate Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia (Committee) was established on 16 May 2018, and aims to introduce a federal National Obesity Strategy to tackle the dramatic increase of overweight and obesity in all age groups.

The Committee outlined 22 recommendations in their Final Report, proposing the implementation of consistent food labelling for processed and discretionary foods, improving the availability of healthier products, imposing a tax on sugary drinks and introducing stricter rules to reduce exposure of discretionary food marketing to children.

The multi-faceted strategy undertaken by the Committee endeavours to holistically engage the community, medical professionals and government to both re-educate and improve behaviours around diet and physical activity, and to intervene in treatment of those already living with obesity. The Committee recommends obesity is added to the list of medical conditions eligible for the Chronic Disease Management scheme, to better deliver effective healthcare interventions and treatment. 

Read the Final Report here.

GST on feminine hygiene products to be removed from 1 January 2019

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On 28 November 2018, the Federal Government signed the determination that will remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from feminine hygiene products from 1 January 2019 (Determination). 

The determination follows the completion of a public consultation on the definition of feminine hygiene products to be exempt of the GST. 

The change will be made effective on 1 January 2019, removing the 10 per cent GST that currently applies to these products.

The Federal Government has directed the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to monitor and report on the prices, costs and profits relating to the supply of menstrual products in the feminine hygiene products industry. The ACCC will monitor the price of menstrual products from 1 December 2018 to 28 February 2019, and provide a report to the Treasurer by 31 March 2019. 

As part of this role the ACCC will examine prices nationally before and after 1 January 2019. The ACCC will also carefully consider any allegations that price changes are being misrepresented in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. 

Read the Determination here, and read more about the ACCC’s role here.

Medical Board revised guidelines on sexual boundaries a timely reminder for doctors

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Revised Medical Board of Australia guidelines on sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship took effect on 12 December 2018. The updated guidelines apply to all registered medical practitioners in Australia and define the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected of doctors by the Board, their peers and the community. 

The guidelines emphasise trust as the cornerstone of good medical practice and remind doctors that it is never appropriate to engage in a sexual relationship with a current patient. The updated guidelines feature a new section on social media.

Read the full guidelines here.

The release of the updated guidelines is timely in light of a recent finding of professional misconduct by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in respect of a Victorian doctor who engaged in a sexual relationship with a current patient.

Dr Haifi saw the patient regularly over the course of 18 months. After initial contact on social media, Dr Haifi and the patient exchanged text messages and met in person. The two engaged in sexual activity on multiple occasions. 

Dr Haifi was reprimanded under the Health Practitioner National Law (Victoria) Act 2009. His registration as a medical practitioner was suspended for two months and made subject to several conditions requiring him to undertake an education program approved by AHPRA. 

Read the full decision here.

NSW Coroner critical of failure to listen to parent concerns

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On 23 November 2018, the Coroner’s Court of New South Wales released its findings in the inquest into the death of Angelique Burton-Ho; a 12 year-old child who died as a result of cardio-respiratory failure shortly after being transported from Bowral Hospital to the Sydney Children’s Hospital (SCH).

Angelique presented to the Bowral Hospital Emergency Department (ED) on 9 August 2015 complaining of a sore throat and leg pain. She was admitted later that same day after deteriorating with vomiting and respiratory distress. Angelique’s past history of difficult airway and the need for special care were well documented in her medical records.

Despite concerns raised by Angelique’s mother, medical and nursing staff failed to recognise and act promptly on Angelique’s clinical decline. A decision was made on the third day of admission to transfer Angelique to SCH, however, her condition had become critical and she passed away shortly after arrival.

During inquest proceedings, Angelique’s mother gave evidence that she ‘didn’t have a voice’ and that ‘nobody was listening’ to her. Coroner Grahame was critical of the failure to properly escalate these concerns to a doctor, and opined that while there are no certainties, had Angelique been retrieved from Bowral Hospital at an earlier time, she may have had a real chance of survival.

Coroner Grahame recommended changes including the development of protocols in relation to patients who are clinically deteriorating, and that nursing staff are trained to ensure awareness and understanding of the Recognise Engage Act Call Help (REACH) Program which enables patients and their families to escalate concerns about the condition of themselves or their loved ones.

Read the findings in full here.