In response to my earlier post, New laws come into force (7 July 2014) “Cannulator” wrote a comment where he or she said:

Also commencing on 1st of July was the Victorian Mental Health Act 2014, with quite a few important changes that will impact on other Acts and the powers afforded to operational paramedics. Many changes to status, process and powers to behold!

It’s taken me some time to get to look at that Act, but having done so I have to agree with Cannulator.  The Act is too long to explore in detail here but we can make some quick observations.

First a search of the Act reveals that the term paramedic is used in only two sections – sections 3 and 350.  Section 350 says that a registered medical practitioner may administer sedation to a person where that is required to facilitate their transport, and that the practitioner may authorise a paramedic to administer that sedation.  So far that is nothing too controversial.

It is section 3 that has the hidden impact.  Section 3 is the definition section and it defines the term ‘authorised person’.  Many people are authorised persons, including paramedics, and authorised persons have significant powers.  An authorised person may:

  • use bodily restraint to prevent serious and imminent harm to a person being taken to or from a designated health service (s 350);
  • enter premises, apprehend and take person to a designated mental health service (s 353);
  • search a person who is being transported to a designated health service in order to find anything that may pose a danger (s 354);
  • may seize and detain anything found in that search (s 356);
  • apprehend a person who is absent without leave from an interstate mental health facility (s 326);

These provisions are not so unique, as there are similar provisions in a number of states see Mental Health Act 2000 (NSW) s 20; Mental Health and Related Services Act 1998 (NT) s 31; Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld) ss 32–36; Mental Health Act 2009 (SA) s 56 and similar powers are proposed for the ACT (see Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Amendment Bill 2013 (ACT)).  That does not however make these provisions uncontroversial (see Ruth Townsend and Morgan Luck, ‘Protective Jurisdiction, Patient Autonomy and Paramedics: the Challenges of Applying the NSW Mental Health Act’ (2009) 7(4) Australasian Journal of Paramedicine Article 5) and raise critical questions about the role of paramedics and the appropriate division of roles between police and paramedics.

As ‘Cannulator’ says this new Act brings ‘Many changes to status, process and powers’ and it will be interesting to see how they are implemented in Victoria.