Today’s correspondent asks:
What is the legal standing of healthcare professionals, such as doctors or nurses from local country hospitals, urgent care clinics, or doctors clinics in Victoria, when providing medical or first aid services at events in their local towns? (eg, local sporting events such as the football grand finals, bike events or country agricultural shows etc)
Does the absence of a license under the Non-Emergency Patient Transport and Event First Aid Act / Regulations impact their ability to offer such services?
Are there any circumstances, such as not being paid or gifted anything in kind, attending in an unofficial capacity with equipment and medications, or acting spontaneously in an emergency, that could alter this?
The reference to the Non-Emergency Patient Transport and Event First Aid Act / Regulations is a reference to the Non-Emergency Patient Transport and First Aid Services Act 2003 (Vic). There are regulations under the Act, in particular the Non-Emergency Patient Transport and First Aid Services (First Aid Services) Regulations 2021 (Vic) and the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Regulations 2016 (Vic) but we don’t need to look to those to answer this question.
The Act says (at s 42I) ‘A person must not operate a first aid service unless that person holds a first aid service licence’. That begs the question of what is a ‘first aid service’. That term is defined in s 3 as ‘a service of offering or providing first aid in exchange for payment’. Section 42H provides some more detail by defining what is not a first aid service. That section says:
For the purposes of this Act, the following persons do not operate a first aid service—
(a) a volunteer first aid association, including any individual who provides first aid as part of that volunteer first aid association;
(b) a life saving club, including any individual who provides first aid as part of that life saving club;
(c) Life Saving Victoria;
(d) an individual who is employed by an organisation to provide first aid to persons employed or engaged by that organisation in the course of the business carried on by the organisation;
A person who is employed by a mine operator to provide first aid to staff of that mine operator.
(e) an individual who provides first aid in the course of their work at a hospital, medical clinic or allied health service;
(f) a medical clinic or allied health service;
(g) an individual who encounters by chance a circumstance that appears to require the provision of first aid and who provides that first aid.
To turn then to the questions –
A first aid service is a service provided in ‘exchange for payment’. It follows then that yes, there are circumstances, ‘such as not being paid’ that are relevant. If a doctor or nurse agrees to provide first aid services at a community event, and they are not getting paid then they are not in breach of the Act.
Secondly if a person, including a doctor or nurse, just happens to be there when someone needs first aid and they come to assist then that, too, is not in breach of the Act (s 42H(g)).
A medical clinic (s 3) is ‘premises at which clinical consultation is undertaken, other than a hospital or a day procedure centre that is registered as a health service establishment under the Health Services Act 1988’. A doctor who operates a surgery in the town and who provides a service at the event, perhaps working from a room and who bulk bills Medicare or bills patients with a Medicare number would, arguably, be engaged in his or her practice and would also be exempt from the provisions of the Act (s 42H(e) and (f)). One might argue that the community event is not the ‘medical clinic’ but one has to infer that a person’s employment in a medical clinic can extend to providing treatment outside that clinic (eg on house calls) and if there is a dedicated first aid room, that would be ‘premises’.
Provided ‘healthcare professionals, such as doctors or nurses from local country hospitals, urgent care clinics, or doctors clinics’ are not offering to provide services in exchange for payment (other than, arguably, a doctor who is billing patients or Medicare in accordance with his or her normal practice) is not acting contrary to the Non-Emergency Patient Transport and First Aid Services Act 2003 (Vic). A healthcare professional who is at an event, as a participant or spectator, is also not in breach of the Act if he or she renders first aid to someone who needs it.
This blog is made possible with generous financial support from the Australasian College of Paramedicine, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Natural Hazards Research Australia, NSW Rural Fire Service Association and the NSW SES Volunteers Association. I am responsible for the content in this post including any errors or omissions. Any opinions expressed are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or understanding of the donors.