Health professionals

 

Health care providers work in a highly regulated, systems-based, environment. Beyond the internal requirements of an employer, health professionals face an array of external professional, ethical and legal obligations governing clinical practice. When something goes wrong, individual health professionals can find themselves having to answer questions from a line up of agencies, including their employer, their regulatory authority, the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Coroner. Advice and assistance at an early point goes a long way to minimising risk and achieving the best possible outcome.

Our lawyers have intimate knowledge of the regulatory framework within which practitioners operate. That means not just the legislation but understanding of the associated standards, processes and agencies involved. We routinely advise practitioners responding to complaints and investigations, including investigations into competence, fitness to practise and disciplinary complaints. We are involved in resolution of disputes of many kinds, with a focus on cost effective and constructive solutions. Our lawyers are experienced litigators, representing clients in legal proceedings, including at coroners’ inquests and before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

We regularly advise healthcare providers on:

 

Examples of work done by Claro lawyers

Responses to inquiries and investigations by the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights applies to all providers of healthcare services, regardless of whether they work in a regulated profession, and regardless of whether the service is paid for. We have assisted individual providers in preparing responses to questions from the HDC in relation to complaints from consumers.

Appearances at inquests on behalf of health practitioners. We have been involved in many inquests involving a wide range of issues; including mental health, medication errors, aged care, surgical mistakes, primary health, and obstetrics and maternity care. Our lawyers regularly appear in the coroner’s court and have a thorough understanding of the coronial process.

Prosecuting and defending charges laid before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. We have in-depth understanding of the Tribunal process, having both prosecuted and defended practitioners facing charges before the Tribunal on matters relating to clinical issues (professional misconduct), behavioural issues, relationship issues, convictions reflecting adversely on the profession, and practising without a practising certificate.

Judicial review of the investigation of a complaint about a health practitioner. We acted for the practitioner, who applied to the High Court for review of the manner in which the regulatory authority and its professional conduct committee managed an investigation into a complaint. There was considerable delay in progressing the investigation. The High Court entered judgment by consent confirming that the delays were unfair to the practitioner, and granting a permanent injunction preventing the professional conduct committee from continuing its investigation.

Defamation claim. A health professional made a disparaging and subjective comment in a patient’s notes about the patient’s support person. Requests were made to remove the note, and for the reasons for its inclusion to be investigated. An allegation of defamation was made. The matter involved consideration of “qualified privilege” in terms of the Defamation Act 1992 and the extent to which a confidential patient record can be considered a publication.

Competence reviews under the HPCA Act. The Act has wide ranging provisions allowing regulatory authorities to enquire into the competence of individual health practitioners, regardless of whether they have reason to believe there are concerns about the practitioner’s competence. We have assisted healthcare professionals respond to such enquiries, including assisting in the preparation of preliminary comments on the issues raised, providing advice on the proposed form of the competence review, and on the report of the competence reviewers’ findings.