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NZMA regrets passage of HPCA Act

Thursday, 11 September 2003

NZMA regrets passage of HPCA Act

A new law regulating health practitioner groups is a missed opportunity for improvements to medical practice, and offers no assurance of further benefits to patients, the NZMA says.

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act passed its final reading in Parliament today.

NZMA Deputy Chairman Dr Ross Boswell said the new Act would increase political influence and bureaucratic involvement in the practice of medicine, and there would be a decrease in professional self regulation, which has been at the core of the development of safe health care for New Zealanders.

He says the Act lacked the clarity of the current Medical Practitioners Act, which has governed the practice of doctors for the past seven years.

‘The Medical Practitioners Act was a modern and effective piece of legislation,’ says Dr Boswell. ‘It allowed significant advances to be made in governing the practice of medicine. Although it was to have been the basis of this new legislation, somewhere in the process cumbersome additional requirements have been added, with a seeming determination to increase control over health practitioners.

‘The NZMA and many other medical and professional groups have warned the Government of the potential adverse effects of the HPCA Act, but it has not listened.’

Dr Boswell says the Act is to be reviewed in three years and the NZMA will be closely monitoring the effects of this legislation on doctors and their patients.

The Act repeals 11 existing regulatory statutes (including the Medical Practitioners Act) and will provide a framework for the regulation of health practitioners. Its intention is to provide mechanisms to assure the public that a registered health practitioner is competent to practise, as well as consistent procedures across the professions for handling complaints against health practitioners.

The health practitioner groups covered by the new Act include: Medical practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, midwives, osteopaths, psychologists, chiropractors, and allied health professionals (such as optometrists and dietitians).

ENDS

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