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Poisons Amendment Bill 2021

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Tags: Legislation, Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, the Greens support this amendment bill to update the regulation, control and prohibition of scheduled substances, especially medicines. This is important updating. I did not get an opportunity to have a briefing on this bill but it seems to be happening in the context of parallel conversations in the space of medication safety and management.

I would like to reflect on the still-to-be-completed coronial inquest into the death by his own hand of a Tasmanian paramedic. The report of the coroner is yet to be completed but I understand the inquest and the hearings have finished. In that process, there was some very disturbing testimony provided about failures within Ambulance Tasmania to properly protect their staff and to have the proper workplace duty of care. These are allegations made in the testimonies of paramedics past and current. It appears there have been gaps in safety so that this man was able to improperly gain access to medicines and it had a tragic outcome.

I know that Ambulance Tasmania themselves and I have had various conversations with the minister, and that Health department staff have been looking at how to safeguard people in the employment of Ambulance Tasmania and other parts of the health system on the back of that coronial inquest. I asked a number of questions of Mr Acker during Estimates, through the minister, in relation to where they were up to in implementing some actions on the back of the findings made in the coronial inquiry. The minister said there was an electronic medication management system and that will capture medication management from procurement to audit.

Minister, you said that 'the procurement process for the system is progressing and it will assist in the capture of drug register information and will also enhance drug audit capability and would be designed for the mobile paramedic environment when it is completed'. Can you detail the time frame for when the implementation and completion would be for that? In the interim, what are the mechanisms being put in place now to provide those double-paramedic-at-all-instances safeguards, and some kind of external oversight to make sure that in every instance that is occurring? Can the minister could respond to that and to the matter of ambulance officers?

I am referring to the Australasian College of Paramedic Practitioners and their submission to the Rural Health inquiry. For some time now, they have been advocating for the paramedic practitioner model to be available to paramedics in Tasmania - a form of Masters degree and further specialty training through the university system. Paramedic practitioners in the United Kingdom have prescribing rights of poisons and other medications and can order tests and imaging and treatment. It is a manifestly good model for Tasmania to investigate.

I ask the minister to reflect on where he is up to with working with the Australasian College of Paramedic Practitioners to advance this sort of paramedic practitioner certification process in Tasmania.

One of the impediments identified is that the Tasmanian legislation would need to be amended to support the paramedic practitioner model. They say the Poisons Act 1971, the Mental Health Act 2013, the Public Health Act 1997, the Human Tissue Act 1985, the Evidence Act 2001 and the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 are examples of legislation that would need to be amended for a paramedic practitioner certification model to be established in Tasmania. Minor changes would need to occur to federal legislation to allow paramedic practitioners to access the MBS and the PBS.

Minister, could you please provide an update of the conversations that were had or not had with the Australasian College of Paramedic Practitioners in relation to this bill? Did you seek their views about the changes in the Poisons Act and did you guarantee to investigate this matter? Where would the amendments to such acts fall in the suite of legislative reform for this Government?

Because we are looking at opening up with COVID 19, and with pressure already on the health system, it is clear that paramedics and Ambulance Tasmania staff are a crucial part of the system. We have to provide as many options to recruit, train and retrain people so they can continue a lifelong career path in the domain of paramedic skills.

There are opportunities to increase the skill set of people in rural areas by giving people who have been paramedics the opportunity to skill up and work with private operators, public operators and public health in rural and regional areas. Those same emergency response skills would be very helpful for us in emergency departments, in allied health centres in rural areas and in the smaller hospitals in Tasmania. These are the sort of professionals who could use their skills in a different forum other than in Ambulance Tasmania. Of course, we want more people to be in that role as well but this is about giving everybody an opportunity to stay in the team, yet work in a new and related field and expand their capacity.

Minister, has there been consideration of these issues when discussing this bill? Would you consider looking into that in the near future?