FAQs - Veterinary Practice Bill 2020
Making a submission
Who can make a submission?
Anyone can make a written submission on the Veterinary Practice Bill 2020. Comments received will ensure the Bill introduced to Parliament is informed by a wide range of perspectives and reflects contemporary expectations of veterinary professional standards.
Veterinarians, veterinary nurses, other animal health service providers, and consumers of veterinary services in Western Australia are particularly encouraged to submit their views.
How do I make a submission?
To make a submission, complete the online submission form on this site. Please ensure you read the Veterinary Practice Bill 2020 consultation paper and the consultation draft of the Bill before submitting your feedback. If you have any difficulties with your submission or further questions, please contact us by email at VetPracticeBill@dpird.wa.gov.au or use the Q&A area on the Talking Biosecurity website.
What should my submission include?
Your submission can include any comments relevant to the Bill. The online submission form provides a structure for your comments based on key provisions of the Bill, however you do not have to provide comments against all headings.
Submissions may be published online after the consultation period has ended, and may also be cited in a publically available report. Submitters who do not wish their name published, or would like their submission to remain confidential, can note this in the online submission form and/or it should be clearly marked on their email submission.
Can I make a confidential submission?
Submissions may be published online after the consultation period has ended, and may also be cited in a publically available report, but you can request your submission be kept confidential. The online submission form will ask you to nominate whether you wish to have your name published on the submission or not, or whether you would like your submission not to be published at all. If you use the email submission, please clearly mark whether you agree for your submission to be published with your name, without your name or whether you wish your submission to be kept confidential.
Veterinary Practice Bill
provide for the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine in WA
facilitate the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine on a national basis
repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960 and Veterinary Surgeons Regulations 1979.
national recognition of veterinarians registered in other Australian jurisdictions
deregulation of ownership of veterinary practices
Board handling of impairment and minor disciplinary matters
immediate action orders
new constitution and membership of the Board.
diagnosing diseases or physiological conditions or injuries in animals
medical treatment of animals
performing surgical procedures on animals
administering anaesthetics to animals or
other acts that may be prescribed in Regulations.
What is a Bill?
A Bill is a draft of a proposed law. A Bill is introduced by a Minister (or it can be by a private member) into one of the houses of Parliament for reading and debate. The Bill is then sent to the other house. After the Bill has passed both houses of Parliament, it is presented to the Governor, who assents to it on behalf of the Monarch. The Bill then becomes an act of Parliament.
Why is legislation on veterinary services changing in WA?
Significant advances have occurred in the provision of veterinary services since the Veterinary Surgeons Act came into force in 1960. A new Act is needed to meet future challenges in the provision of veterinary services. Over the past decade, most other jurisdictions have modernised their legislation on veterinarians and veterinary premises. WA now differs in several important regulatory provisions, including national recognition of veterinary registration and the ownership of veterinary premises.
What is the purpose of the Veterinary Practice Bill 2020?
The Bill aims to:
How is the Veterinary Practice Bill different from the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960?
The Bill differs from the current Act in many ways. Key features of the Bill include:
The Bill proposes national recognition of veterinary registration, allowing veterinarians to work flexibly across state and territory borders.
Under the Bill, non-veterinarians will also be allowed to own veterinary practices outright, which will align WA with other jurisdictions.
The Bill proposes to empower the Board to deal with veterinarians and nurses who have an impairment that may affect their capacity to work. The Board will be able to request a veterinarian or veterinary nurse to undergo a health assessment if it reasonably believes they have, or may have an impairment. The Board will also be empowered to make an immediate action order if it is satisfied people or animals are at imminent risk of injury or harm because a veterinarian or veterinary nurse has an impairment.
Other major differences between the Bill and the current Act include the Board regaining powers to deal with minor disciplinary matters, and the constitution of the Board. The Board will expand from five to eight members.
What isn’t covered by the Bill?
Unlike the current Act, the Bill does not include provisions related to acts of veterinary medicine that may be performed by anyone or by authorised people. The Bill allows for these acts to be prescribed in the new Regulations, which are being prepared.
When will the Regulations be available for consultation?
The Regulations are being prepared and will be the subject of consultation at a later date. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will inform all stakeholders about the consultation period for the Regulations when they are prepared.
What is an act of veterinary medicine?
An act of veterinary medicine means performing services on animals such as:
What will national recognition of veterinary registration mean in WA?
National recognition of veterinary registration (NRVR) allows greater freedom of movement for veterinarians to practise veterinary medicine across state or territory borders without having to register in each jurisdiction they work. The Bill proposes that interstate veterinarians working in WA be ‘deemed’ to be registered for up to three months. If an interstate veterinarian intends to reside and practise in WA for more than three months, they must seek to be registered in WA. If, after three months, a veterinarian does not seek WA registration but continues to reside and practise in WA, they will be practising veterinary medicine without registration. This will be an offence under the Bill, with a penalty of $10,000 for a first offence.
Why are changes being made to the ownership of veterinary practices in the Bill?
National competition policy reforms introduced in 1995 recommended the lifting of restrictions on the ownership of veterinary premises. After these competition policy reforms were adopted by the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG), most jurisdictions removed restrictions on the ownership of veterinary practices. WA is now the only jurisdiction not to have deregulated the ownership of veterinary premises.
To align with the national competition policy, the Bill proposes there will be no restrictions on the ownership of veterinary practices. Any person who is or proposes to be a veterinary practice owner can apply to the Board for registration or renewal of registration of veterinary premises.
Impairment, health assessments, immediate action orders
What is an impairment?
Impairment is a legal term defined in the Bill and means:
a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence) that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect a veterinarian or veterinary nurse’s capacity to practise veterinary medicine or practice as a veterinary nurse.
Why does the Bill deal with the impairment of veterinarians and veterinary nurses?
Veterinarians report higher than average levels of depression and anxiety compared to the general population. Long working hours, personnel issues, and poor work-life balance contribute to psychological and physical disorders in veterinarians. Psychological or physical disorders, substance abuse, and other forms of distress can constitute an impairment if it detrimentally affects the capacity of a veterinarian to practise veterinary medicine or a veterinary nurse to practise as a veterinary nurse. While there is broad recognition that a person who is impaired can recover with help, action may be required given ‘impairment’, under the Bill, means that it detrimentally affects, or is likely to affect, a person’s practice and client care.
The inclusion of provisions related to impairment in the Bill is intended to support the mental and physical health of veterinarians and veterinary nurses while protecting the public interest of Western Australians. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960 there are few options to deal with veterinarians suffering an impairment. Under the current Act, the legislative focus is on the conduct of the veterinarian rather than their current or future mental and physical capacity to practise. An alternative process to deal with impairment other than through the disciplinary process is considered necessary.
Legislation in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and South Australia also deals with the impairment of veterinarians.
What is a health assessment?
A health assessment is used to determine if a person has an impairment. A health assessment can include medical, physical, psychiatric, or psychological examinations or tests to determine whether the person has an impairment. The Board will appoint a medical practitioner or psychologist, in consultation with the practitioner, to conduct a health assessment. The Board will pay for the assessment.
Will a health assessment be compulsory under the Bill?
The Bill empowers the Board to require a veterinarian or veterinary nurse to undergo a health assessment if it reasonably believes that the person has, or may have an impairment. A person can refuse to comply with a requirement to undergo a health assessment. However, this will be taken as evidence that they have an impairment unless they have a reasonable excuse not to undergo a health assessment.
What happens if a veterinarian or veterinary nurse is found to be impaired after a health assessment?
The Board may impose conditions on the registration of a veterinarian or veterinary nurse found to have an impairment or make an immediate action order. Conditions on registration may include that the person undertakes a specified period of practice or work under supervision, or they do or refrain from doing something in connection with veterinary medicine. The Board may also modify an existing condition on registration.
What is an immediate action order?
An immediate action order aims to protect people and animals if a veterinarian or veterinary nurse places them at risk of imminent injury or harm because of conduct they engage in, or because they have an impairment.
The Bill empowers the Board to make an immediate action order if it is satisfied that there is a risk of imminent injury or harm to people or animals. An immediate action order can be made at any time, including during a complaint inquiry. The immediate action order may impose a condition on registration, modify and existing condition on registration, or suspend the registration of the person for up to 90 days.
A veterinarian or veterinary nurse who is subject to an immediate action order is entitled to seek a review of the decision to make the order by the State Administrative Tribunal.
Complaints and investigations
What is considered unprofessional conduct in the Bill?
A two-tier system of handling unprofessional conduct by a veterinarian is proposed in the Bill:
Unsatisfactory professional conduct includes doing, or omitting to do, something in connection with the practice of veterinary medicine in a manner, or to an extent, that falls short of the standard of competence, diligence, and safety that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent veterinarian or veterinary nurse; or any other conduct that is prescribed in the Regulations to be unsatisfactory professional conduct.
Unprofessional conduct includes unsatisfactory professional conduct where the conduct consistently or substantially fails to meet reasonable competence and diligence, conduct that is inconsistent with a person being a fit and proper person to hold registration as a veterinarian or veterinary nurse, and conduct that is prescribed in the Regulations as unprofessional conduct.
Will the Board deal with the conduct of veterinarians and veterinary nurses?
Yes, the Board will be empowered to deal with minor disciplinary matters under the Bill. These powers will allow the Board to establish an inquiry into an allegation of unsatisfactory professional conduct. The State Administrative Tribunal will deal with allegations of unprofessional conduct.
The Board will be able to make one or more orders if someone is found to have had unsatisfactory professional conduct, including the issuing of reprimands, fines (up to $5000 for veterinarians, up to $3000 for veterinary nurses), the imposition of a condition on registration, or modification of an existing condition.
Veterinary Practice Board of WA
four veterinarians registered in WA
one veterinary nurse registered in WA
one veterinary officer employed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, assisting in the administration of the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007
one consumer representative, and
one legal practitioner registered in WA.
Who will be on the Veterinary Practice Board of WA?
Board membership will increase from the current five members to eight members, consisting of:
The Minister will appoint all Board members for up to three years. There are no provisions in the Bill to hold an election of Board members. This is different to the current Act.
What happens to the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board when the New Act is assented?
The old Board will go out of office on the day the New Act comes into force. A new Board will be formed on this day. The Minister will decide if any of the old Board members will become members of the new Board. The staff employed by the Board will continue to be the staff of the new Board.
What happens to my registration when the New Act is assented?
The Bill makes transitional arrangements for registration under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960 to be transferred to the New Act until 30 June following the date the Act comes into operation. This allows for the establishment of the registration processes required under the New Act. Information about these arrangements will be given closer to the time when the Act has assented. Similar arrangements will apply to the registration status of veterinary premises.
What are the next steps?
After the consultation process, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will consider all submissions on the Bill, prepare a report, and finalise the Bill for consideration by the Minister, and ultimately, the two houses of Parliament.
The Veterinary Practice Regulations are being prepared and will be made available for consultation at a later date. A public consultation process will occur for the Regulations.
I would like more information – who should I contact?
For more information, contact us by email on VetPracticeBill@dpird.wa.gov.au . Alternatively, you can submit your questions via the Q&A function on the Talking Biosecurity website.