Gayle’s Law FAQs
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
From 1 July 2019, health services must have in place:
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:
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.
An independent review of Gayle’s Law, undertaken by Professor Robyn Aitken, Deputy Dean Rural and Remote Health, Flinders University, was completed in May 2021 and tabled in the South Australian Parliament.
The review found that there has been a genuine commitment from health service providers to implement the provisions of Gayle’s Law as intended and that it has significantly improved the safety of health practitioners working in remote areas of South Australia.
The review made 18 recommendations which the Government is currently considering.
A formal response to the review is scheduled to be released in September 2021.
A copy of the full review report is available here.
For more information about Gayle’s Law please email HealthPolicyLegislation@sa.gov.au