Media Release: SA Election 2018, AMSA renews calls for changes to mandatory reporting laws
12 March 2018
SA Election 2018: AMSA renews calls for changes to mandatory reporting laws
With under two weeks until the South Australian State election, the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) is calling for contesting parties to commit to changing mandatory reporting laws to adopt the Western Australia model.
AMSA, the peak representative body for Australia’s 17 000 medical students, believes that the next South Australian government should fulfil the commitment made as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council to implement a national framework that supports the mental health of doctors and students.
AMSA President Alex Farrell said “We are asking all parties to commit to supporting doctors’ and students’ mental health prior to the election.”
In all States, except for Western Australia, current laws have led to a fear of being reported if doctors and medical students seek help for mental illnesses. This fear deters doctors and students from seeking early, preventative care.
“AMSA supports the provisions in the WA model which give exemptions to mandatory reporting requirements for treating doctors- this means doctors can access confidential care just like everyone else.”
“Medical professionals work long hours and in high stress environments. They deserve the same level of access to care as everyone else. Yet they consistently have higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. Every year there are more tragic stories of students and junior doctors dying by suicide,” said Ms Farrell.
“Changing these laws is crucial to keeping students and doctors safe. Medical professionals need to be supported and the current laws prevent them from accessing help.”
“NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has already committed to changing the laws in NSW. We would like to see the same leadership on this issue shown in South Australia,” Ms Farrell said.
Under the proposed model, only the treating doctor would be exempt from mandatory reporting. For example, if a colleague becomes seriously concerned about a co-worker, mandatory reporting would still apply.
“Patients are safest when the doctors caring for them are also healthy and supported,” Ms Farrell said.
Letti Sweet, a medical student studying at the University of Adelaide, said “There is definitely a stigma around seeking help for mental health, part of that is the fear of mandatory reporting. If you can’t tell a doctor when something is wrong, that doesn’t leave you a lot of options.”
Letti Sweet is a medical student studying at the University of Adelaide, and is available to comment.
Published: 13 Mar 2018