This article applies to organisations that operate public and private health facilities in Queensland.
Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (Qld)
Please be advised that the Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (Qld) (the Bill) passed the Queensland Parliament on 13 August 2020 and received Royal Assent on 20 August 2020.
The Bill amends the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) (HHB Act), by strengthening networked governance in Queensland’s public health system. The amendments require Hospital and Health Services (HHS) and Hospital and Health Boards to have regard to the effective and efficient use of resources for the public sector health system. This includes having regard to the best interests of patients and other users of health services throughout Queensland.
The Bill also amends the Ambulance Service Act 1991 (Qld) (AS Act) to recognise that the Queensland Ambulance Service and HHS have mutual obligations to collaborate.
Importantly, the Bill amends the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) (PH Act), by prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy by health service providers in Queensland. With evidence suggesting that conversion therapy is harmful and delivers no benefits, the government has now made it an offence for health practitioners to perform conversion therapy. The prohibition of conversion therapy aims to protect the public and is consistent with the recommendations made by the Ending Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy Roundtable.
The Bill repeals redundant sections of the Public Health Regulation 2018 (Qld) (the Regulations) relating to the Queensland Pap Smear Register.
Finally, the Bill also amends the Private Health Facilities Act 1999 (Qld) (PHF Act) to align the conditions of licence for private health facilities in Queensland with requirements under the nationally adopted Australian Health Service Safety and Quality Accreditation Scheme (National Accreditation Scheme).
Strengthening network governance
Amendments made to HHB Act and the AS Act recognise Queensland Ambulance Service’s role as a critical part of the public health sector. Specifically, section 3D of the AS Act is amended, which now provides that the Queensland Ambulance Service has the function to collaborate with HHS to manage the intersection between the services provided by the Ambulance Service and health services provided by the HHS. In addition, section 19 of the HHB Act is amended to insert a corresponding function for HHS.
Commitment to health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
As a result of recommendations made by the Addressing barriers to health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland’s public hospital and health service report, section 23 of the HHB Act has been amended to provide for mandatory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation on Hospital and Health Boards when a vacancy occurs. In addition, section 40 of the HHB Act has been amended as part of a commitment to closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, where HHS must develop and publish a health equity strategy.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) reports
The Bill amends section 112 of the HHB Act by removing the restriction preventing the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Service (PSQIS) from sharing RCA reports with quality assurance committees. This amendment aims to improve the safety and quality of health services, as current confidentiality provisions of the HHB Act prevent PSQIS from providing a copy of an RCA report to any other party.
New offence—Conversion Therapy
Organisations should be aware that the new section 213H creates an offence under the PH Act, by prohibiting conversion therapy. A person who is a health service provider must not perform conversion therapy on another person.
The offence only applies to health service providers. Under the PH Act, health service providers include doctors, nurses and psychologists, as well as unregistered health service providers such as counsellors, naturopaths and social workers. The offence will apply regardless of whether the service is a paid or unpaid service.
Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Examples include a practice attempting to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity by:
- inducing nausea, vomiting or paralysis while showing the person same-sex images;
- using shame or coercion to give the person an aversion to same-sex attractions or to encourage gender-conforming behaviour;
- using other techniques on the person encouraging the person to believe being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex is a defect or disorder.
Notably, conversion therapy does not include a practice by a health service provider that, in the provider’s reasonable professional judgement:
- is part of the clinically appropriate assessment, diagnosis or treatment of a person, or clinically appropriate support for a person; or
- enables or facilitates the provision of a health service for a person in a manner that is safe and appropriate; or
- is necessary to comply with the provider’s legal or professional obligations.
The following are examples of the types of practices to which conversion therapy does not include:
- assisting a person who is undergoing a gender transition; or
- assisting a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition; or
- assisting a person to express their gender identity; or
- providing acceptance, support and understanding of a person; or
- facilitating a person’s coping skills, social support and identity exploration and development.
In addition, the above exclusions will protect practitioners who, acting reasonably, in good faith and in accordance with professional standards, treat a patient in a manner that could be perceived as not affirming or supporting their sexual orientation or gender identity, for example by advising a patient of risks of having surgery when they have a pre-exiting medical condition.
The new offence carries a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units (currently $13,345.00), 12 months’ imprisonment or both. If the recipient of the conversion therapy is a vulnerable person, such as a child, the maximum penalty increases to 150 penalty units (currently $20,017.50), 18 months’ imprisonment or both.
Repeals redundant provisions of PH Act Pap Smear Register
The Bill repeals redundant provisions in the PH Act relating to the now discontinued Pap Smear Register, following the commencement of the new National Cancer Screening Register with a new screening program for cervical cancer to commence at the age of 25 years and a five-yearly test for human papillomavirus instead of the previous two year test. In addition, the Commonwealth now has the responsibility of notifying women of when screening is due and of any action required following a test.
Amendment to Private Health Facilities Act
Section 48 of the PHF Act has been amended to change license conditions that are inconsistent with the National Accreditation Scheme, or no longer necessary.
Please click here to access the full Bill.
For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:
Phone: 1300 862 667