Inconsistencies in decision-making between state boards
Published: 15 August 2011
Are Queensland nurses and midwives being treated unfairly by the Queensland Board of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia?
The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme was intended to achieve nationally-consistent laws and standards for ten health professions, including nursing and midwifery.
Somewhat disconcertingly however, there seems to be a growing inconsistency between the way in which nurses and midwives, as a profession, are treated in relation to health, competency and conduct notifications compared to other health professions. There is also growing evidence that nurses and midwives in Queensland are being treated differently to nurses and midwives in other states.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the decisions made by the Queensland Board of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia in respect to nurses and midwives who are subject to health, conduct and competency complaints are becoming progressively harsher than the decisions made by other state Boards. For example, the Queensland Board’s policy on drug and alcohol testing for nurses and midwives with alcohol and drug-related medical conditions may require them to undertake 192 urine drug tests per year at a cost of $60 for each test, in relation to a health complaint. No other state in Australia currently imposes such financially onerous conditions on nurses and midwives who may have drug or alcohol-related health conditions. This imposition does not assist the nurse or midwife to return to the profession and is excessive in relation to the monitoring necessary to ensure that they practise safely.
The other significant deviation between Queensland and other states is in respect to disciplinary matters brought by the Queensland Board in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Currently only the Queensland Board seeks costs orders against nurses and midwives. A costs order is where the unsuccessful party must pay for the other party’s costs. This has the effect of discouraging nurses and midwives who believe that they have been unjustly charged from challenging a decision of the Board. It also discourages nurses and midwives who admit to professional misconduct from challenging a harsh penalty sought by the Board. This is grossly unfair and presents a substantial impediment to nurses and midwives accessing justice in the QCAT.
It is disappointing that such inconsistencies are developing within a system which was meant to introduce nationally consistent laws. The QNU is lobbying to ensure that such inconsistencies are eliminated and do not continue to arise. If you receive correspondence from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency advising that a complaint has been made against you, please contact the QNU immediately.
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