- A landmark legal case in the United Kingdom could lead to pregnant women being prosecuted for drinking alcohol, human rights campaigners warn.
- The Australian Medical Association has backed a move by the WA Health Department to stop employing overseas-trained doctors in Perth hospitals.
- Country Health SA says it would like to expand the use of video link-ups between doctors and patients across the state. Country Health’s chief operating officer, Rebecca Graham, recently attended a Rural Medicine Australia conference, where health professionals from around the country discussed the challenges and opportunities of telehealth.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 7th November 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
A landmark legal case in the United Kingdom could lead to pregnant women being prosecuted for drinking alcohol, human rights campaigners warn.
Earlier this year the Northern Territory Government made the same proposal, but then backed down.
The case in the UK was brought by local government authorities who said a six-year-old girl born with foetal alcohol syndrome was affected by her mothers’ excessive drinking.
The authorities said the girl was the victim of a violent crime, specifically poisoning, and if successful, the case could lead to payouts for many other children.
Rebecca Schiller from the Birthrights charity said her organisation was concerned the case could set a precedent leading to the criminalisation of women’s behaviour while they are pregnant.
Ms Schiller said criminalisation does not work and can be harmful to women and their children.
“Evidence from countries like the US where criminal penalties are levied against women… there is absolutely no suggestion that this criminalisation works,” she said.
“It doesn’t prevent women from abusing substances while they are pregnant, and what it does… is push those women into hiding from the healthcare professionals who could provide them with specialised support services.
“So we don’t believe this is going to help women or their unborn children and at the expense of whittling away at women’s reproductive rights in general.”
A lawyer for the authorities, Neil Sugarman, denied the case could open the door to the prosecution of pregnant women who drink.
A key issue for the court to consider is whether the foetus is a separate biological and legal entity and can be the victim of a crime.
A lower court has already ruled against that, but Mr Sugarman said the case was still strong.
Both sides of the argument agreed there needed to be more support for vulnerable pregnant women, and support for children born with impairments.
The case has been progressing through British courts for four years and it is unclear when a final decision will be handed down.
The Australian Medical Association has backed a move by the WA Health Department to stop employing overseas-trained doctors in Perth hospitals.
Acting director-general of Health Bryant Stokes told a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday that a rapid increase in local graduates meant hospitals no longer needed to rely on overseas-trained doctors.
He said he had instructed his department to stop employing any more overseas-trained doctors working in Perth hospitals.
AMA state president Michael Gannon welcomed the news.
“We now have reached something of a self-sufficiency in staffing our own hospitals,” Dr Gannon said.
“Let’s not forget that doctors trained here locally are culturally competent.
“They’ve either lived their whole life in Western Australia or at the very least if they’ve moved here in recent years they’ve come to an understanding of the unique needs of our population.
“They’re trained in Aboriginal health, they’re trained in understanding the unique mix of public and private medicine we have in Australia.”
WA employs more international doctors than any other state, with almost 40 per cent of its medical practitioners trained overseas.
Mr Gannon said overseas-trained doctors might still be employed in regional areas.
Country Health SA says it would like to expand the use of video link-ups between doctors and patients across the state.
Country Health’s chief operating officer, Rebecca Graham, recently attended a Rural Medicine Australia conference, where health professionals from around the country discussed the challenges and opportunities of telehealth.
She said it was investigating the possible use of the technology in emergency medicine, similar to the practice in Western Australia.
“We’re looking at the models that they’re doing there too – where you may have an emergency doctor that’s in a metropolitan area that’s actually supervising a presentation that may not have a GP present or might support a GP in a local area to provide that emergency support,” she said.
She said the technology was mainly used to deliver mental health services but other parts of the health sector were now using video consultations.
“We’re now seeing that other specialties are doing extremely well and so some of those specialties, such as cancer services, renal services, rehabilitation and cardiology, have done some fantastic models of care that actually cover all of country South Australia,” she said.
“So we’re really pleased with the uptake of this service.”
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