25 Jan 2017

Major changes in Victorian health complaints

A new health complaints body with expanded powers and responsibilities has opened this month.

The office of the Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC) has now replaced the former office of the Health Services Commissioner. This is the culmination of many years’ work reviewing Victoria’s health complaints framework and developing new legislation, the Health Complaints Act 2016 (Vic), to meet the challenges presented by modern healthcare.

Changes include a new Code of Conduct for general health service providers who are not regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Assistant Health Complaints Commissioner, Dorota Siarkiewicz, said the code would provide a minimum standard non-registered practitioners could be held to, but should not mean extra work for those already operating safely and ethically.

“We will be able to receive complaints about alleged breaches of this code and resolve them through complaints resolution or expanded investigation powers,” Ms Siarkiewicz said. “This should bring greater consistency and accountability across health professions.”

Where the code has been contravened, the HCC may make a temporary or permanent prohibition order. This is consistent with other jurisdictions and there is mutual recognition of prohibition orders between Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

These changes are in line with commitments made by Health Ministers in 2014 to address concerns about non-registered healthcare providers by introducing a national Code of Conduct around safe and ethical healthcare.

The HCC is now able to accept complaints from anyone, including from third parties or other practitioners.

“Based on these complaints and other information received, our office has a role in identifying issues or trends and making recommendations to healthcare providers for improving their service,” Ms Siarkiewicz said.

The Duckett review identified legislative limitations to the way organisations in the health regulatory system share information. The new legislation makes it easier for the HCC to share information with AHPRA and the Department.

The HCC will also work closely with the new Safer Care Victoria and a new information agency in the Department to further the quality and safety agenda.