Q: What is the Inquiry about?
A: On 19 March 2019 the Victorian Government announced that it had referred a matter to the Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC) in relation to Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) and other fertility treatment services.
The Health Complaints Commissioner will conduct an Inquiry into these services and, at the end of the inquiry, will deliver a report to the government, which may make recommendations to the Minister for Health.
Q: Has the Inquiry commenced?
A: The inquiry commenced with the release of a discussion paper on 25 June 2019.
The discussion paper addresses a series of questions about the Inquiry and invited submissions from ART and other fertility treatment service clients (including submissions from family members/friends), providers and other interested stakeholders. Submissions to the Inquiry are now closed.
Q: How long will the Inquiry take?
A: The Inquiry is expected to be completed and a report delivered to government by the end of 2019.
Q: Can I make a submission to the Inquiry?
A: Submissions to the Inquiry opened on 25 June 2019 and closed on 20 September 2019. We received more than 120 submissions and held public consultation sessions in September to further inform the Inquiry.
Q: I have previously made a complaint to the HSC/HCC about my ART/IVF experience. Will my complaint be considered in the Inquiry?
A: Yes, information from past complaints will be reviewed as part of the Inquiry (the names of complainants will be kept confidential). However, you may wish to also make a submission to the Inquiry addressing the specific questions in the discussion paper. We won’t be reconsidering your past complaint.
Q: Can I complain about my past experience with ART/other fertility treatment services?
A: Yes. However, complaints to the HCC must be made within 12 months of when the health service was last provided or sought. The HCC may deal with some complaints after more than 12 months on a discretionary basis but the longer the delay between the treatment and the complaint, the less likely it is that we will deal with it.
New contacts with information about ART/other fertility treatment services provided or sought before 1 February 2017 (commencement of the HCC) will be considered as part of the Inquiry.
Information from all current complaints will also be reviewed as part of the Inquiry - the names of complainants will be kept confidential.
If we are currently dealing with your complaint through our complaints resolution process, you may also wish to make a separate submission to the Inquiry. The Inquiry will not be attempting to resolve individual complaints, but we do want to hear from as many people as possible.
Q: I want to make a complaint about an ART/other fertility treatment service that someone else received. Can I do that?
A: Yes, however, it is best to make a complaint with the knowledge and authority of the person who received the treatment. The HCC may not be able to deal with the complaint through our normal complaints resolution process if we have no authority to discuss the complaint with the person who made it. If we cannot deal with a complaint about an ART/other fertility treatment service through our complaints resolution process, we may treat the information provided as a submission to the Inquiry.
Q: How can I tell if my ART/other fertility treatment service provider is engaging in unscrupulous or unethical conduct?
A: If you are concerned about the conduct of your ART or other fertility treatment service provider you can make a complaint to the HCC.
If your concern relates to a registered practitioner, for example, a medical practitioner or a nurse, you can notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). The HCC shares with AHPRA all complaints it receives about registered practitioners. AHPRA has the power to investigate professional conduct of registered practitioners.
While our complaint resolution process is separate to the Inquiry if, as a result of submissions to the inquiry, the Commissioner forms a reasonable belief that an investigation of an individual ART/other fertility treatment service provider is warranted, then that may occur separately to the Inquiry. One outcome of an investigation may be a finding that a health service provider has failed to act in a safe or ethical manner.
Q: Will you share submissions made to the Inquiry with AHPRA?
A: No, there is no obligation to share with AHPRA submissions received in response to an inquiry. However, the HCC is required by law to share with AHPRA complaints received about registered practitioners. If you are concerned about the professional conduct of a registered practitioner, you may also notify AHPRA directly. A notification form is available on AHPRA’s website.
Q: I am about to start ART/ fertility treatment. Have you received any complaints about my provider?
A: We do not report on individual complaints. If you have any concerns about the conduct of the provider, you are welcome to lodge a complaint with our office, or notify AHPRA if the conduct relates to a registered practitioner.
You may also wish to contact the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), which is the statutory agency responsible for the registration of ART clinics in Victoria, among other things.
Restrictions or conditions imposed by AHPRA on registered practitioners are published on the AHPRA register, available on its website.
Q: Will the Inquiry result in cheaper ART/fertility treatment costs in Victoria?
A: The HCC cannot prescribe the amounts ART/IVF providers, or any other health service providers, charge for treatment.
Q: Will any ART/other fertility treatment providers be banned as a result of this Inquiry?
A: There are no powers to ‘ban’ providers following an Inquiry. At the conclusion of the Inquiry, the HCC may make recommendations to the Minister for Health. If unsafe or unethical practices are identified during the inquiry, the HCC may decide to conduct an investigation of the unsafe and unethical ART/IVF provider. However, this will be at the discretion of the HCC and on a case-by-case basis.
Q: I am an ART/fertility treatment provider. How will the Inquiry ensure that providers are treated fairly?
A: The HCC is an impartial and independent statutory agency, and we do not advocate for one party or another.
All providers are encouraged to make submissions to the HCC under the Inquiry.
In addition, as part of the Inquiry, the HCC may seek specific submissions or information from individual providers. The Inquiry will not publish the names of individuals who make submissions without consent.
If the HCC decides to conduct an investigation into a provider as a result of information obtained through the Inquiry, the parties involved in the investigation will be afforded natural justice. The HCC will meet all legal requirements in the conduct of the investigation, including procedural fairness and the principles of natural justice.