Vic Act to Regulate Non-Emergency Patient Transport
Monday 30 August 2021 @ 11.29 a.m. | Legal Research
On 16 March 2021, the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Amendment Bill 2021 (Vic) ('the Bill') was introduced to the Victorian Legislative Assembly by Minister for Ambulance Services Martin Foley. The Bill passed both houses of parliament on 5 August 2021, and received assent on 10 August 2021.
The main purpose of the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Amendment Act 2021 (‘the Act’) is to improve the safety and quality of services and the regulation of first aid services for the private non-emergency patient transport sector (‘NEPT sector’). The Act is yet to commence.
In explaining the need for amendments to the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Act 2003 (‘the 2003 Act’), the Minister noted in his second reading speech that:
"Unfortunately, there have been examples of a small number of operators who have not put patient safety first. The Bill is expected to result in poorly run service providers either lifting their standard to meet the safeguards or leaving the market."
The Act, once commenced, will be amending the title of the 2003 Act to 'Non-Emergency Patient Transport and First Aid Services Act 2003'. The explanatory memorandum of the Bill stated that this was:
“to reflect the licencing and regulation of commercial first aid services, in addition to non-emergency patient transport services”.
Provisions of the Act: Safety and Quality of Services
The Act contains several provisions that seek to improve the safety and quality of services provided in the NEPT sector. Under the new amendments, vehicles can be inspected without notice. In his second reading speech, the Minister commented that this was in order to:
“see whether they are fit for purpose, not out of date, and [to ensure] they are carrying vital safety equipment”.
The Minister also summarised in his second reading speech that:
"when applicants apply to be an NEPT provider and when their licences are renewed [under the Act], they will be assessed on whether:
- they can deliver safe services, whether they can foster on-going improvement of the quality of their service; and
- suitable clinical governance arrangements, and management and staffing arrangements are in place."
The Act also addresses shortcomings identified in a review of the 2003 Act. In his second reading speech, the Minister noted that amendments under the Act specifically addressed issues where:
“non-emergency patient transport service licence holders who provide stand-by services at public events that are in fact providing first aid services and have no intention of ever transporting patients”.
The amendments under the Act will require these providers to have a first aid licence going forward.
The review had also found that the word 'paramedic' was being used incorrectly in business names. The Minister reinforced in his second reading speech that 'paramedic' should only be used to describe those people who “perform clinical procedures, administer drugs and maintain patient records”. He stated that to resolve this, the new Act bans the use of the word 'paramedic' to describe “non-emergency patient transport services or first aid services”.
To further ensure the quality of non-emergency patient transport services, the Act also provides a power to suspend or cancel a licence where there is a risk to patient safety.
Provisions of the Act: Regulation of First Aid Services
Prior to the Act, the first aid sector was unregulated. However, the wide range of services that the first aid sector provides, made it an important part of the healthcare system. In his second reading speech, the Minister noted that such services included things such as:
"bandaging of minor injuries and low-level pain relief, to major trauma stabilisation prior to ambulance transport, to provision of general anaesthesia and intravenous sedation for drug overdoses."
Under the Act, commercial first aid providers will be required to be licensed and will be subject to regulation.
The Minister additionally commented in his second reading speech that the regulation of first aid services introduced by the Act has received support from the first aid sector. According to the Minister, the notion of regulating the sector was well-received because:
“it introduces minimum patient safety and quality of care standards which will give the community trust in the sector, and it will remove poor or unsafe operators”.
Volunteer first aid services will not be subject to regulation under the new Act. This is to reduce the probability of these services being removed at activities such as community sports events.
In order to allow time for adjustment to the regulation scheme, the Act allows a transition period of 12 months for first aid service providers to obtain a license.
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Non-Emergency Patient Transport Amendment Act 2021 (Vic), Bill and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service