25/07/2000 - 22:00

Doctors poised to advertise

25/07/2000 - 22:00


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DOCTORS will soon be allowed to advertise.The WA Government is considering changes to the Medical Act, which includes permitting doctors to advertise.

Doctors poised to advertise
DOCTORS will soon be allowed to advertise.

The WA Government is considering changes to the Medical Act, which includes permitting doctors to advertise.

However, it will be an offence for doctors to falsely advertise services, unfavourably compare the services of their colleagues or offer discounts.

Parliament is due to consider the changes early next year.

The governing Acts of other medical professions are also being reviewed.

Chiropractors, for example, are limited to advertising in the Yellow Pages.

The Chiropractors Registration Board’s Colin Emmott said chiropractors could only advertise when they changed address or started practice.

While the medical profession has welcomed the proposed changes, the Australian Compet-ition and Consumer Commission has some concerns.

The ACCC’s Sitesh Bhojani said the commission viewed advertising restrictions on a professional body as anti-competitive.

“It is important that, once the advertising restrictions are lifted, professional associations such as the Australian Medical Associa-tion go out to the community and explain the services their members provide,” Mr Bhojani said.

“This does not mean that when the Acts that regulated these professions allow advertising, there will be no regulation covering those advertisements.

“The Trade Practices Act will still apply.”

Advertising regulations applying to Australia’s legal and accounting professions were

loosened about 10 years ago.

Edwards Wallace managing partner Stephen Edwards said, until the late 1980s, lawyers were not allowed to advertise. Clients were not allowed to know how much lawyers charged until they received their bill.

Personal injury lawyers were the first to be allowed to advertise.

“However, lawyers still had to have their marketing approved by the then ethics committee of the Law Society,” Mr Edwards said.

The ACCC ruled this was anti-competitive and removed the advertising restrictions.

Abbott Business Consulting’s Steve Abbott said accountants had been able to advertise for about 20 years, but previous rules had been very strict.

Another issue facing medical practitioners is corporatisation.

The Medical Act provides for the registration of bodies that are corporate – either of all medical practitioners or of medical practitioners and “others acceptable to the Medical Board”.

Medical Board registrar Simon Hood said that only medical practitioners could operate a practice.

“In WA, a number of companies are setting up the infrastructure and providing the premises and practice management services for medical practices,” Mr Hood said.

“Medical practitioners then go in and provide the medical service and give a fee to the company.”

However, only the medical practitioners are allowed to invoice the patients.

The medical practitioners also carry all liabilities associated with the practice.


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