Implementation of the Paramedicine Board of Australia
19th Jul 2018
The first instructions required from a claimant in a medical negligence claim are where the alleged negligence occurred and the name of the medical practitioner. In Queensland, an initial notice is required to be served on the medical practitioner or the relevant hospital and health service under s9A of the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld).
When serving the initial notice, it depends on who is alleged to have caused the negligence as to how the process commences. If a general practitioner or private specialist is alleged to have been negligent, they are served personally at their place of business.
However, if the negligence is alleged to have occurred at a hospital, the relevant health service under which the hospital falls is required to be served. The medical practitioner is considered to be an employee of the relevant health service. The health service, as employer, becomes vicariously liable for the actions of its employees.
Paramedics are in a similar position to employees at a hospital, in that they are not served in person but their employer is served with the initial notice. While most would assume that this would be Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), QAS is not considered to be a legal entity and consequently cannot be sued. The State of Queensland therefore becomes vicariously liable for the actions of paramedics and the State is issued with the initial notice at the outset of the claim.
In many cases, the claimant’s initial frustration is directed at the medical practitioner whose care they were under, and I often hear comments such as ‘I want the doctor to be held accountable for the injury I have suffered so it does not happen to anyone else’.
As part of my initial advice, I recommend that claimants should consider making a complaint to the Office of Health Ombudsman (OHO). The OHO is a Queensland statutory body established to investigate complaints made regarding health services. The OHO’s aim is to assist in protecting the health and safety of the general public. The OHO can conduct an independent investigation into the medical practitioner who provided the treatment rather than the hospital in general.
Referral to AHPRA
Upon completion of its investigation, the OHO is able to make a decision as to whether or not the complaint is one that should be referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to be put before the relevant Board.
Until recently there were 14 different Boards which handled such referred complaints, including dental, medical, medical radiation practice and occupational therapy, to name a few. AHPRA assists with setting the national standards required for health practitioners and ensuring their compliance with those standards.
Paramedicine Board of Australia
In October 2017, the new Paramedicine Board of Australia was appointed, making this the 15th Board to be regulated by AHPRA. The establishment of the Paramedicine Board of Australia and requirement for all paramedics to be registered with AHPRA means that complaints about the treatment provided by paramedics will now be commenced with OHO and referred to the Board, if required. This registration process will allow AHPRA to regulate this sector of the health profession more effectively and ensure public safety.
Paramedics can now therefore become accountable for their decisions in providing treatment if AHPRA decides that treatment fell below the acceptable standard. From September 2018, anyone who has obtained the appropriate qualifications and wishes to be known as a ‘paramedic’ nationally will be required to register with AHPRA.
Discussions regarding the establishment of this Board have been ongoing for a number of years and now that the Board has been appointed, and with registrations soon to commence, it brings paramedics into line with other health professionals.
Perhaps the registration process will reduce the number of stories in the media about unqualified or ‘fake’ paramedics providing medical treatment to the general public, potentially putting lives at risk. In February 2017, an unqualified paramedic was alleged to have given 140 flu shots while based at a Central Queensland coal port. In October of the same year, a 16-year-old boy, who had completed a paramedics course in rescue and medics, was arrested when he bought and created an emergency services truck and then proceeded to attend up to 40 emergencies in the month prior to his arrest.
It is my opinion that paramedics should continue to receive the same immunity that they currently have when providing first aid and/or emergency treatment. I am also of the opinion that if a paramedic has provided treatment to a standard which is below what should be acceptable, they should be required to explain their actions to the newly established Board, just as all other medical and health professionals are required to do, and face the consequences of their actions.
Joanne Baker started her legal career as a 17 year old Office Junior in a small law firm in the UK. She migrated to Australia in 2002 and continued working in law firms advancing from Legal Secretary to Law Clerk. Joanne graduated from University of Southern Queensland in early 2016 and was admitted as a Lawyer later that year. She then returned to University of Southern Queensland in 2017 and completed Honours achieving 6.5 GPA with a focus on medical law for her major dissertation. Joanne is currently a Lawyer in the Medical Negligence team at Slater & Gordon Lawyers handling medical negligence and health professional claims throughout Queensland.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
 Roane-Spray v State of Queensland  QDC 328, .
 Office of the Health Ombudsman, About us (2018) <http://www.oho.qld.gov.au/about-us/office-of-the-health-ombudsman/>.
 AHPRA, What we do (page reviewed 3 November 2017) <http://www.ahpra.gov.au/About-AHPRA/What-We-Do.aspx>.
 AHPRA, ‘National regulation of paramedicine moves a step closer’ (Media Release, 25 October 2017) <http://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/2017-10-25-paramedicine.aspx>.
 M Petrinec, ‘“Fake paramedic” accused over CQ coal port flu shots’, Daily Mercury (online), 11 February 2017, <https://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/fake-paramedic-accused-over-cq-coal-port-flu-shots/3142396/>.
 M Scanlan, ‘Fake truckie teen says he just wanted to help people in emergencies’, The West Australian (online), 18 October 2017, <https://thewest.com.au/news/australia/fake-truckie-teen-says-he-just-wanted-to-help-people-in-emergencies-ng-b88633260z>.