Scarlet News:

Sex Worker Health Services At Risk – Judy Spence Relinquishes Health Staff Of Confidentiality

May 11, 2006 | News

Police Minister Judy Spence is taking her first foray into the issue of health by relinquishing all health staff of ethical, professional and confidentiality standards, only if they are dealing with sex workers (Clause 31, proposed S134A, of the Prostitution Amendment Act 2006). The health staff will be free to make arbitrary judgements about sex workers’ intellectual capability, with full immunity from defamation laws. This breach of privacy is not in keeping with the Governments’ efforts to improve the Queensland health system – by removing all accountability from health staff on these matters, it is simply a time bomb. Health Services For Sex Workers In Queensland: Under funded and soon to be without account

"Sex workers in Queensland already face long queues and below par sexual health services which they undertake with overzealous regularity due to the legislated mandatory testing requirements. Now the Government wants to add on-the-run mental health assessments to the responsibilities of the sexual health nurses. These nurses are not equipped to provide such assessments and, if the proposed law is passed, will have no accountability in the form of confidentiality or ethical standards. It is unacceptable and intolerable that Judy Spence should propose such a strain on the health service and expect health workers to undergo assessments outside of their qualifications,"

Janelle Fawkes, Manager, Scarlet Alliance

Intellectually impaired in Queensland to be stripped of their medical confidentiality rights

“Sex workers in Queensland who may have some level of intellectual impairment cannot be assured of confidentiality when they visit a health practitioner, under a new law poised to be passed in the Prostitution Amendment Bill 2006 (s134A). This law will make it legal for health practitioners, including nurses at sexual health clinics, to speak to police about their patients if they ‘reasonably believe’ them to be intellectually impaired. The definition includes impairment due to neurological or psychiatric reasons so could conceivably cover people with a range of conditions, from autism to bipolar disorder or depression. Does the government think that allowing health practitioners to talk to police will encourage sex workers, with or without mental health issues, to maintain open and adequate contact with their health practitioners?”

Candi Forrest, SSPAN

Compromising Sex Worker Health: Unacceptable

“The Bill provides that health professionals will no longer have to comply with usual standards of confidentiality if they doubt a sex worker’s mental health. The health professional will be free from civil liability or charges of defamation if they report such a sex worker to the police, even without a formal assessment of the sex worker’s mental health. This will severely compromise the accountability and transparency of health professionals, and the level of care that sex workers receive.”

Paul R Martin, General Manager, QuAC (Queensland AIDS Council)

Determining a person’s mental health without assessment: Who Will Decide?

"The removal of all responsibility to quality assessment of an individual’s mental health is a dangerous proposal which will result in the trampling of sex workers’ civil liberties. Assessments by sexual health nurses would not stand up if a case was brought against a health worker; mental health physicians and registered clinical and forensic psychologists should be the only professionals expected to make such a determination."

Criminologist Paul Wilson