In a positive move for consumer protection, the NSW government plans to tighten legislation which regulates alternative medicine practitioners. And what has prompted them to do this? The AVN. Here’s the proof.


Recently, I blogged about a new bill recently introduced into parliament, which is designed to tighten legislation regulating unregistered practitioners. I mentioned that this was all a result of the AVN suing the HCCC.

Well, during ongoing discussions this week, the AVN coped a bollocking in parliament, from both sides of politics. The text below comes from the Hansard (which is essentially a transcript of parliament) and the full version is here (beginning on page 1404).

I’ve excerpted the bits describing how the AVN is responsible for this change. My mate Pete has covered the speech from Dr Andrew McDonald, opposition spokesperson for health here, which states “The drivers for these changes are the 2012 Supreme Court decision in Australian Vaccination Network Inc. v Health Care Complaints Commission…” (I’ve included some of his statements throughout this post).

I also wanted to point out this statement from McDonald which I found very interesting,

“However, the New South Wales immunisation rate remains in the low ninetieth percentile, due partly to the ability of such groups as Australian Vaccination Network to muddy the waters about immunisation…”

I routinely check the vaccination statistics which are published by Medicare every quarter and the area where the AVN resides, the Northern Rivers, generally fights for last place with the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney (which destroys any preconceptions that anti-vaxers are only dirty hippies). However, I had not looked at these numbers compared to the rest of Australia, so if this number is true then it’s certainly cause for alarm for health authorities.

But I digress. I think what’s important to note about this discussion is that because the bill is supported by the government and the opposition, it’s very likely to pass and become law. This means a lot of alt med practitioners will have to clean up their act. Especially since the bill also means the health commissioner can act independently even in the absence of a complaint. It’s also a long overdue update in a time when people are frequently turning to Dr Google for health information.

As for the AVN’s role, well, Mrs Dorey has always been proud of her alleged ability to influence government and legislation. I somehow don’t think she’ll be as happy with this outcome however. Expecially since it puts the AVN well and truly in the firing line. It’s almost as if the government has designed this legislation especially for them, but we wouldn’t want them getting paranoid now would we…

——–
Mrs Roza Sage:

“The commission has received complaints against the Australian Vaccination Network [AVN], including one relating to the parents of a four-week-old child who died of whooping cough, alleging that the Australian Vaccination Network provided inaccurate and misleading information about vaccination. This is an issue that the current parliamentary committee is concerned about. It is pleased that this amendment is being made. The Australian Vaccination Network website presents a highly sceptical view of vaccination, which could be interpreted as an anti-vaccination message. But at first glance its name would imply the exact opposite…

The Australian Vaccination Network challenged the recommendation in the Supreme Court and won …It was argued that a complaint cannot be made against a health service provider unless the complaint alleges that the health service provider affects the clinical management or care of an individual client. Basically this implies that if people take the health provider’s advice, even if it is published on the internet, they cannot be responsible for the individual’s medical outcome.

…This is not in the best interest of public health. How many times have members searched the internet and made their own judgements on what they have read? Internet advice was an issue in this case.

…This amendment will strengthen the role of the Health Care Complaints Commission and will ensure that when the commission is aware of a matter affecting the health or safety of patients, or of the public in general, the commission will not have to wait for a complaint to come to the commission but proactively will be able to investigate a complaint.

———–

Dr Andrew McDonald, “The Australian Vaccination Network is a fervent and highly virulent anti-immunisation group. Its name and website are designed to mislead unsuspecting community members to believe that a balanced view about immunisation is being presented.”

———-

Mr Guy Zangari: “I understand that the amendment is in response to the New South Wales Supreme Court decision in Australian Vaccination Network Inc. v Health Care Complaints Commission delivered in 2012. …The Supreme Court held that the scope of the Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate a complaint is limited to circumstances where the health service in question affects the actual clinical management or care of an individual client…

In effect, this amendment seeks to prevent the operations of the Health Care Complaints Commission being narrowed to a proscriptive function, with the power only to reprimand health service practitioners for contraventions of health-related legislation. It seeks to confer upon the commission the power to provide pre-emptive responses to health-related issues.

———–

Dr Andrew McDonald, “..the Australian Vaccination Network is a health service provider and should accurately reflect what those views are—in this case anti-immunisation.”

———–

Mrs Leslie Williams:

“..The Australian Vaccination Network has been the topic of much discussion during meetings of the current joint parliamentary Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission. It publishes a website that is highly sceptical of the benefits of vaccination.

On a personal level, I, as a registered nurse prior to entering Parliament and a mother, have serious concerns about this anti-vaccination message, which puts our children and the wider public at risk. Complaints during 2009 and 2010 alleged that the Australian Vaccination Network engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in attempting to persuade people not to vaccinate their children.

…Under section 7 of the current legislation the court found a valid complaint had not been made because no individual client whose clinical management or care had been affected by the Australian Vaccination Network had been identified. This limitation on the Health Care Complaints Commission’s jurisdiction has led to the proposed amendment of section 7 of the Health Care Complaints Act to make it clear that a complaint can be made against a health service if the health service affects, or is likely to affect, the clinical management or care of an individual client.”

————

Dr Andrew McDonald, “When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network.”



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  • Andy

    The changes look positive and the reasons for them are certainly delicious. But, cynic that I am, I have to wonder if it really changes anything?

    In the previous saga, the HCCC assumed jurisdiction and told the AVN to post a notice stating their anti-vax position. The AVN declined and the HCCC posted a public warning. I never got the impression the HCCC intended it to go any further. The worst thing that happened for the AVN was the loss of charity status and that was reinstated when it appeared there were plenty of reasons not to reinstate it.

    So, even if the HCCC get jurisdiction and reinstate their warning against the AVN, what happens then? Do the HCCC get new teeth and can/will they prosecute for failure to comply with recommendations? Or will they be as worthless as the TGA?