08 Mar New laws to give health officers more power to act on poor hygiene
New legislation will “empower” Queensland Health officers to shut down or fine facilities for poor hygiene practices, Health Minister Cameron Dick said on Monday.
The legislation, which Mr Dick plans to introduce to parliament by the end of March, is in response to the December 2016 closure of a Brisbane dental clinic because of poor infection control measures
Health Minister Cameron Dick wants Queensland Health officers to have more power to fine and shut down health facilities with poor hygine standards. Photo: Jorge Branco
At the time, patients of Gap Free Smile at Carina were encouraged to get independent checks as a caution in case they had contracted hepatitis C from a recent treatment at the clinic.
“This case late last year in December illustrated that we needed to have stronger powers to enable Queensland Health to act and act immediately if necessary,” he said.
“We will be implementing new laws that will help Queensland Health better investigate and if necessary shut down and fine health care facilities that may be exposing Queenslanders to a risk from infectious disease.”
The planned laws would apply to facilities including some hospitals, dental clinics and blood banks, but not aged care homes or accredited general practices.
Mr Dick said the infection control at these facilities were already covered by existing legislation.
Among other measures, including fines of between $121,000 and $365,700, Mr Dick said it would remove hurdles that slow down the process of investigating poor hygiene practices.
“Current legislation requires Queensland Health to give 24 hours’ notice before it can enter a facility to investigate potential breaches,” Mr Dick said.
“We don’t want to have to wait to enter a premises.”
Queensland Health’s communicable diseases branch executive director Sonya Bennett said officers would not always need a search warrant to check compliance under the new legislation.
“The proposed legislation is intended to help authorities manage a risk when it is identified more easily…. one of those will be to enter a premises, to look and request the infection control management plan,” Dr Bennett said.
“If there’s other activities required like seizing documents then that’s probably when a warrant will be required.”
While the legislation still needed to be referred to the health committee, Mr Dick said he hoped the legislation received cross-parliamentary support.
“I hope this doesn’t receive any political opposition in the parliament,” he said.