Long awaited reform finally arrived this year with introduction of the Medical Practitioners Act 2008 (WA).  This was much needed and welcomed, replacing the antiquated and outdated previous legislation, the Medical Act 1894.

The system for registration of practitioners and importantly, in the context in which I practice, the handling of complaints and disciplinary issues for the medical profession in Western Australia has been overhauled and significantly improved.

As with many legislative reforms, the new scheme appears however to have a perhaps unexpected, unfortunate adverse consequence in terms of the continuation of practice/provision of service by older retired or semi-retired doctors.

This week I was informed that a retired anaesthetist living in Kalbarri (for those of you who don’t know, a beautiful seaside holiday town north of Perth) will because of the new legislation be unable to provide relief/locum services when the town’s GP is unavailable, for example on no doubt much needed annual holidays.  Such relief has been provided for the last few years, ensuring continuity of service to the community.   The position now seems that when the town’s GP is away, the town will have no doctor and presumably residents will need to travel to the nearest town for medical care etc (and some significant distance in this respect).

More seriously perhaps, such retired anaesthetist is the only medical practitioner in Kalbarri able to perform an intubation in the event this is required (as in the event of a major traffic accident or boating collision etc).  The GP apparently does not have this skill.  Because of the stricter registration requirements under the new legislation, such anaesthetist is probably no longer able to lawfully perform this service, even in an emergency situation.

This situation seems absurd, particularly as we approach school holidays in the West, when it is likely the local population will swell considerably.  

Whilst it is understandable that those persons able to perform medical services needs to be closely regulated, the "cost" of losing the remaining skills of experienced retired or semi-retired practitioners seems unnecessary and potentially harmful, particularly in areas outside the metropolitan area where attracted and providing such services is already very difficult indeed.

Something for further thought and refinement I suspect.