Lawyers say they are not to be blamed for the ongoing rural health crisis
Lawyers say they are not to be blamed for the ongoing rural health crisis Contributed

Lawyers slam blame game on rural health crisis

LAWYERS have slammed claims they are to blame for regional Queensland's ongoing maternity health crisis, calling a law proposed by the peak body for doctors "ludicrous".

Queensland Law Society president Ken Taylor said it was "not correct" to blame lawyers, pointing the finger instead at the profit margins of major medical insurers.

His comments come after a Mackay-based gynaecologist, his views supported in part by AMA Queensland, last week said intense legal pressure put on healthcare providers in the early 2000s through lawsuits drove many specialists from the bush.

"It's not correct to blame the lawyers," Mr Taylor said.

"It's certainly got nothing to do with lawyers, these claims themselves are difficult to take on, you need to obtain, certainly, evidence from other medical practitioners in that field before the claim can be progressed or investigated by the health ombudsman."

Mackay lawyer Brad Shanahan, a partner at Wallace & Wallace and accredited personal injuries specialist, said there was no evidence doctors being held to the same legal standards of care as other professions was a disincentive to practise in rural areas.

"To single us out as the cause was a bit unfair when there are all sorts of reasons why problems can occur," Mr Shanahan said.

"We only make claims when something has gone wrong, if there wasn't some kind of medical problem or neglect we wouldn't make a claim."

Mr Shanahan said the idea of a "No Fault Tort Law", proposed by AMA Queensland, where the government would bear the costs of supporting families when patients were damaged by medical misadventure, was "ludicrous".

"That's absolutely ludicrous, that's like saying the government should prop up any plumbers that make mistakes or any electrician that makes mistakes, or lawyers that make mistakes," he said.

"I think claims would go through the roof... if there was no fault, then everybody who thought they had a claim would make a claim.

Mr Taylor said a scheme like that would be "very complex" and expensive for the government to run.