The OHO Act 2013 revisited – is it really protecting the public?

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Former Health Ombudsman, Leon Atkinson-MacEwen, who was suspended last year for neglect (Image via YouTube screenshot)

Drs Leong Ng and Chandrika Barman recently painted in IA, a grim picture of health in Australia. One of them had published about the then novel OHO Act in 2013 and even chose to move away from Queensland, doing so in June 2013 and entering the permanent locum field. Here, they revisit 2013.

THE REASON THEY DID SO was this State Act, though reasonably well drafted despite “extras”, was not field tested or validated. It was a matter of two state acts, which may conflict. Time and practicality were only the tests of its worth.

A memorable part was section 52, which allows for the conciliation of a complaint and indeed shows evidence of candour (a UK style Civil Service requirement), absent locally. Another is the existence of section 81, which gives the state Health Minister controlling powers.

In a notice, the OHO released this statement in July 2014:

“With this new health complaints system, Queenslanders can be confident complaints will be dealt with expeditiously and appropriately and in accordance with the highest levels of transparency and accountability.”

In our view, the delegates of the OHO regularly do their jobs in an unsatisfactory way. It may be because a new Health Ombudsman was appointed in late May 2018 (as the previous one appeared to have other thoughts), so the mice came out to play.

The previous Deputy Ombudsman is now at the helm. As with the past, we must support his difficult effort and give him a chance.

Nonetheless, one (and recently another) of us are the victims of these mendacious OHO delegate(s).

When the OHO assesses a complaint from a different state (no jurisdiction ab initio), it then chooses s39(1) and refers this to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) QLD. This is forbidden in law and is the work of a kangaroo court.

It applies similarly for an already assessed complaint it had performed and deemed it vexatious. This additional action appears to conflict — which is within their purview under the law (which is flawed). Incidentally AHPRA commissioned a report, which was inaccurate and misleading despite their otherwise identifying a notification on one of us as ‘vexatious’ as in reference no.132. For example, a matter cannot be adjudicated twice (res judicata).

Not surprisingly, at the end of 2017 the OHO was suspended. It is like history repeating itself with Robespierre and the French Revolution. Note then that executions by guillotine were increased “in the quest of public safety”. The Health Minister who suspended him suffered a lateral transfer, a third chance, but we do not think these are completely related. Meanwhile, a senior woman health bureaucrat, appointed as the new Health Ombudsman in Dec 2017, delayed her commencement, then pulled out.

This may reflect the game of “revolving door politics”.

Inquiries galore!

A 2009 trigger was a Lower House inquiry into Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs). This resulted in a committee report aptly named Lost in the Labyrinth for which, until now, several Commonwealth Governments had been struggling to ignore (in other words, no response).

It was from Cairns, QLD and feistily sponsored by two Australian Parliamentarians, Messrs Scott and Entsch, with Katter, too. The alternative to seeking justice is to bite the bullet and accept the cunningly manipulated faked judgments of some Australian doctors/colleges. This may be what Dr Chatoor did. He was awarded the FRACP after a full (faked) repeat peer review period (to our minds unnecessary) and moved on to NSW to continue his career. We have learnt little since.

New generation politicians really did not realise that this enduring issue had existed since the 1994 demonstrations by OTDs. This led to what we believe to be now a perfunctory inquiry and Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian issuing his report to the NSW Government (this was privately published in 1999).

Even the belligerent MJA, an arm of the guild called the Australian Medical Association, had published on an earlier Senate Inquiry, which really bore no results.

During that time it was not realised how bad health care management Australia-wide was. Juvenile AHPRA must be given a chance and continues to ignore their spotlight mendacities. The new OHO Act of QLD would evolve to co-regulate (like NSW) and it was fair to get the first Ombudsman to “have a fair go”.

He was given that chance, but in October was suspended by the Minister of Health to the end of his contract. There must have been multiple reasons.

Meanwhile several Commonwealth and QLD Inquiries evolved.

There was also a discreet Senate Inquiry into the workings of the QLD government.

Then, there were the dual and incomplete Senate Inquiries, the most prominent being in 2016, then 2017.

Snowball’s chance

COAG tried to prop up Mr Snowball several years ago and commissioned him to do an Inquiry. His recommendations were not entirely accepted. There was also something odd about this. It may be just another perfunctory job.

Remembering Dr Patel

Whilst most public would have negative connotations about Dr Patel and whose ill-fated fame led to widespread enhanced discrimination of OTDs, the path his cases truly opened up was the gross dysfunction of health care in Australia, particularly with administration of it. The statistics continue to reveal this: QLD has the lowest number of beds per bureaucrat and the highest number of lawsuits — higher than California! The Australian Government predicts an increasing number of bureaucrats with time.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the battle continues after the defeat of a Bill of Rights for Physicians.

A Royal Commission – a further call

The continued call for a Royal Commission rings again.

Most governments of the Commonwealth of Nations will not announce a Royal Commission if the intended outcome is not clear. It is a self-congratulatory device made up by the British Civil Service.

The best example of an exception is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Ms Gillard announced this when she was Prime Minister of Australia.

The most important point is that with AHPRA, though appearing to be a national body administering “National Law”, it is disguised as administering seven versions.

If you sue, you do not target AHPRA, but the state government and COAG HC — the bodies that created the beast. Better still, if you do a HCA Declaration, s51xxIIIA breaches of the Australian Constitution are unconstitutional.

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