This speech is in relation to the Physiotherapy Practice Bill which is regarding restrictions on the provision of physiotherapy by unqualified persons.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This clause relates to restrictions on the provision of physiotherapy by unqualified persons. I pause at this clause because I wish to look at the issue with a view, perhaps, to drafting an amendment. I have a couple of issues with respect to this clause, the first of which relates to concerns the industry might have that this clause might be used under exceptional circumstances, and the government has given an assurance that it would be only in exceptional circumstances. It is also the clause within which any amendment relating to visiting physiotherapists might be moved.
I am grateful to parliamentary counsel for drafting an amendment for me. However, at this time, I will not be moving it, and I wish to provide an explanation. Yesterday, I received an email from the chair of the board, Emeritus Professor Ruth Grant, who was the previous head of the physio school and who has held very senior positions within various organisations in relation to health, education and, in particular, physiotherapy. She is a very well-respected person, and I would always defer to her. In her email, the professor states:
In response to your request re the visiting physiotherapists matter, the board is quite clear that it would prefer the matter to be dealt with within the regulations. There are a wide range of examples of visiting physiotherapists, as you identified in your speech. For the board to be consistent in its consideration of each case there needs to be the ability to have regard to the case in point. Whilst that might sound inconsistent, I can assure that it is not. Clearly, if the overriding decision is to include this matter in the bill itself, we would work with parliamentary counsel to achieve the appropriate wording.
The issue is not primarily a mutual recognition one but one where, when all things are considered, a board is in the position to waive the registration fee if this is deemed appropriate. For example, for a physiotherapist accompanying a sporting team which plays in every state and territory—the fees for every jurisdiction together would be likely to exceed $1 000 per annum.
I think that most members would agree with me that, for the sake of administrative satisfaction, that would be rather onerous. The email continues in relation to the issue of section 36, which is a third matter:
This section relates to restricted therapy or prescribed physical therapy. At present the only therapy `listed' is manipulation—
which I referred to in my second reading contribution—
The board has, over the years, tried unsuccessfully to get electro-physical agents included under prescribed treatment under the current act. As you would readily appreciate, whilst there is no question that electrotherapeutic treatment given by persons without the appropriate background knowledge and training can be a danger to the public, just how best to deal with this has been a challenge.
The email continues:
. . . to include this in an act would require so many exemptions of persons registered in other acts that it would be unwieldy and, too, because this is included in some but not all other physio acts. Whatever the basis for the decision, the public still remains at risk, and that is a real concern for the board.
That is the end of Ruth Grant's email. I confess that I was unaware that electro-physical agents were not covered in restricted practice. As a former practising physiotherapist, this is of great concern to me, because the different machines we use, whether they be short wave or ultrasound, can literally cook people if they are not used in the correct manner. They can be incredibly dangerous and, as in the example of manipulative therapy where the students in their early days are very tentative because they are aware of the risk, the same applies to electrophysical agents.
Rather than leaving this in the too-hard basket, I urge the government to take a further look at the matter. I am sure there is some way, with research and consultation with the board and other relevant organisations, such as the associa¬tion and perhaps the university, that some solution can be found. As Ruth Grant said, it has been provided for in other jurisdictions and I would consider in some ways that it is very risky to leave it unattended.