As a medical practice owner, it wouldn’t come as any surprise that when a regulator decides to visit this is often done at the last minute with little notice given.
Why does a Regulator want to visit my practice?
There can be various reasons for a regulator to visit, including the Privacy Commissioner, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Health and Safety inspectors, Corporate regulators such as ASIC and indeed ASX in the event you are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, not to mention the Australian Tax Office.
There are also industry specific regulators such as APRHA, the Medical Board and Medicare records inspectors that may drop in to visit from time to time.
What to do when a Regulator says they are coming to visit?
What can be more unsettling is regulators don’t always make it 100% clear the reason for their visit. In the majority of cases, you will have nothing to worry about, but anxiety can set in. None the less, having a regulator come to visit, we can find ourselves going over and over in our heads what might have triggered the visit!!
Having a lawyer or third party attending during the visit can help to:
- Provide a pragmatic approach without becoming emotionally involved
- They can understand and decipher any legal requirements
- They can help to communicate back to the Practice owners the reason for the visit and the outcome
- And perhaps most importantly, having a lawyer present can ensure the visit remains professional and above board and provides support to you during the process. Having someone in your corner can help to reduce any uncertainty.
Earlier this year we had a client ( a medical clinic) call us at 4pm on a Monday to say they had a regulator coming to inspect the next morning at 9.30am.
The client was based an hour and a half from Melbourne and couldn’t find a lawyer with the experience they needed locally. One of our Melbourne based team jumped to it. They were at the medical clinic at 8.30am the next morning to work through the issues before the regulator arrived.
Our lawyer met with the client and the regulator to guide the client through the process, and then sat and debriefed with them after the meeting. The regulator came back quickly to say the report that they received had been vexatious and there were no issues to answer.
What can we learn from this?
Often, it’s the small things, like being able to react quickly which can make the difference. Using our expertise, we were able to assist our client when they were in a difficult situation and make the experience one that they will look back on, knowing that they did everything they could to get the great result that they did.
Having a qualified lawyer briefed and ready to meet with them beforehand so they knew what to expect and then to also meet with them together with the representative from the regulator is the best-case scenario and one which makes for a much smoother process.
While these types of events can and do crop up and we can’t always be prepared as we would like to be – the experience for you is likely to better if you speak with an expert straight away.
*this blog is intended for general guidance purposes only, please always seek your own independent legal advice.