The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) (Remote Area Attendance) Amendment Act 2017, more commonly referred to as ‘Gayle’s Law’, was passed by Parliament to provide better protection for health practitioners working in remote areas of South Australia.
What is Gayle’s Law?
The South Australian Parliament passed Gayle’s Law in response to the tragic death of Gayle Woodford, a dedicated nurse who was murdered while working in a remote community in South Australia.
Under Gayle’s Law, health practitioners in remote areas of South Australia must be accompanied by a second responder when attending an out of hours or unscheduled callout.
When did Gayle’s Law commence?
Gayle’s Law came into operation on 1 July 2019. Under the legislation, health service providers must have in place arrangements for the engagement of second responders and policies and procedures to reflect the legislation.
Gayle’s Law Regulations
Much of the detail on how Gayle’s Law operates is provided in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) (Remote Area Attendance) (No 2) Variation Regulations 2019.
These regulations came into operation on 7 November 2019. They replace regulations which commenced on 1 July 2019 but were disallowed on 16 October 2019.
Who does Gayle’s Law apply to?
Gayle’s Law applies to any health practitioner or person who provides a health service in response to an out of hours or unscheduled callout in a remote area of South Australia. This includes health services provided by:
the South Australian Government;
any person or organisation contracted to provide the service on behalf of the South Australian Government;
any person or organisation funded, wholly or in part, by the South Australian or Commonwealth Governments to provide the service;
privately practicing doctors, nurses, or midwives;
local councils providing services in remote areas.
Gayle’s Law requires that health practitioners be accompanied by a second responder whenever they are attending an unscheduled or out-of-hours callout in a remote area.
Under the regulations second responders must:
hold a current Australian driver’s licence;
must have a working with children check; and
must not be prohibited from working with children.
If a second responder is not available, a health practitioner may engage an alternative second responder under regulations 11D(3) and (6). This person must be someone the health practitioner knows and who is, in their opinion, a suitable person to be engaged on a one-off basis as a second responder.
Alternative second responders may only be engaged to attend an out of hours or unscheduled callout where the health practitioner believes that the risk to the health of the patient is high. Under regulation 11D(6), the risk to the health of the patient is only considered high where treatment cannot be delayed until normal operating hours of an available clinic or for a period of more than 24 hours.
Second responders may be paid employees or volunteers. Volunteer second responders, including alternative second responders, are considered to be volunteers under the law and should receive all the same protections as other volunteers within the health service. Health services need to ensure they have appropriate insurance for these purposes.
Prescribed circumstances where a second responder is not required
Under regulation 11E there are only two prescribed circumstances under which a health practitioner can attend an out of hours or unscheduled callout without a second responder:
to a police station where a police officer or community constable is in attendance and will be present at all times while the health practitioner attends the callout; and
to emergencies (e.g. a highway vehicle accident) where an emergency services worker will be present at all times while the health practitioner attends the callout.
What does Gayle’s Law mean for service providers?
From 1 July 2019, health services must have in place:
the process for recruiting second responders; and
policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with requirements outlined in the Act.
Section 77H of the Act and regulation 11G of the Regulations includes the following requirements as a minimum to be covered in policies and procedures:
a statement that the provider and any person employed by them are to comply with the requirements of Gayle’s Law;
a provision preventing any person from directing or requiring a health practitioner to attend an out of hours or unscheduled callout without a second responder;
provisions to assist in assessing the eligibility and selection of persons to be second responders;
provisions to manage risks to the safety and security of health practitioners identified as being specific to the provision of health services at or from a specific location; and
provisions to manage risks to the safety and security of health practitioners identified as being specific to the provision of health services by a specific health service provider.
These policies and procedures must be reviewed, at a minimum every five years. If requested, health services must provide South Australia’s Minister for Health and Wellbeing with a copy of their policies and procedures under Gayle’s Law.
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