• Impairment and board health assessments

    Being ill does not mean you are 'Impaired'

    The Impaired Practitioner

    "I have depression, but I’m being treated by my psychiatrist and I have limited my hours of work."

    Being ill may not mean that you are impaired under the statutory definition of impairment in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law).

    'Impairment' under the National Law means a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder and substance abuse or dependency that detrimentally affects or is likely to affect someone’s ability to practise their profession.

    If your illness does not impact on your ability to work, then you do not come within the definition of impairment. The Medical Board may want to be satisfied that there is a proper structure of support while you are practising. The Board may require you to be assessed by a Board appointed doctor to satisfy the Board that your illness does not impact on your ability to work.


    When does the Medical Board get involved?

    Ultimately, it is about public safety and if the Board is concerned that your health may impact on your ability to practise medicine safely, then the Board will arrange for you to be placed on the impairment program.

    What to expect from the Medical Board?

    "I didn’t realise that it is such a formal process."

    Each State and Territory has a formalised, non-disciplinary process to assist the practitioner to address their health issues in a structured program. This will include Board medical practitioners assessing your health and ensuring that you have appropriate treating practitioners to manage your illness. It will be highly likely that there will be conditions put on your registration to ensure compliance. However, these health conditions will not be made public. There will also be a continuous monitoring process to ensure that you are complying with the conditions. The conditions may include some form of regular testing.

    What do we do to support you?

    "We assist you with each step in the process."

    We have been closely involved with the Impairment Programs throughout Australia over many years. We understand the stress involved in maintaining your practice whilst being ill, but we also understand what it’s like being on the Impairment Program. We provide assistance and advice at each stage of the Impairment Program. We can attend interviews with you and provide advice if there are issues in meeting your conditions.

    Realise it is a journey

    "Recovery can take time."

    Being on the Impairment Program is a process which may take a number of years. The Board needs to be comfortable that you are well enough to return to practise without a formalised structure of support.

    What if I’m not safe to practise?

    "It happened so quickly, I didn’t know what to do."

    If you or your colleagues feel that you are not safe to practise because of your illness, contact Avant immediately. If you continue to practise the Medical Board may take urgent action to stop or limit you from working. The Board may place conditions on your registration to limit your work.

    What does it mean by monitoring?

    "They are pretty strict conditions. What if I slip up?"

    Monitoring is very much part of the structure of support to assist an impaired practitioner to practise safely. The paramount consideration for the Medical Board is public safety and an independent way of checking that you are safe to work is through monitoring your health. This could involve CTD testing (providing regular blood samples) or ETG testing (urine samples). There may well be thrice weekly urine drug or ETG testing. There could be random testing. If the Board decides to implement testing, then this will be a condition on your registration (though not made public) and you must comply with the testing requirements. If you do miss a test, please contact us immediately so that we will be able to notify the Board. There may be pragmatic reasons why you have missed the test, such as a public holiday, however, in all circumstances you need to be vigilant in complying with your conditions.

    If you have any concerns and issues about your health and its impact on your practice, please contact our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) on 1800 128 268 for assistance and advice. We can provide you with medico-legal advice when you need it, even 24/7 in emergencies.