My adjournment tonight is for Minister Carroll. VicRoads is insisting that individuals who suffer from mild epilepsy make a special trip to their specialist to provide a medical report to keep their licence. This has posed a challenge, as many of those who suffer from epilepsy have only an annual appointment with their specialist. In the case of a friend of mine their specialist requires bookings six months ahead of time and only if they suffer a seizure. Further, there is a significant cost in this process to visit the specialist, which in some cases sees people having to pay hundreds of dollars to get this medical report. My friend has been seizure free for well over two years now, so conducting a review at this stage does not make much sense. The medical advice from his specialist remains the same. VicRoads have a default setting whereby unless the specialist provides the report by an arbitrarily set date the licence is automatically cancelled. In effect VicRoads only allows six weeks for a person to obtain an appointment with their specialist. VicRoads refuses outright to provide any extensions of time.
Given the pressure on the GPs and specialists because of the pandemic, there is no justification for VicRoads insisting on such an inflexible time frame. Should it not be a specialist practitioner specifying the period in which the review is required?
It is my understanding that these medical reports are not reviewed at VicRoads by a suitable qualified medical practitioner; rather it is a bureaucrat who may have worked in a health-related field. VicRoads expect these incredibly busy specialists to fill in a very lengthy and cumbersome online form. In my view government bureaucrats without a health background should not be telling our most senior, experienced and learned specialists how they should prepare and provide medical reports.
When it comes to this process VicRoads is found wanting. At a time of acute pressure on all medical services these bureaucrats are forcing people to rush and undertake expensive and unnecessary specialist consultations in order to meet arbitrary confected deadlines that have no medical relevance. So the action I seek is: will the minister conduct a review of the VicRoads fitness-to-drive process with the view of removing any unnecessary bureaucratic red tape?
Response received June 1st 2022 from Hon. Ben Carroll
I thank the Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region for his question.
While many factors contribute to safety on the road, driver health and fitness to drive are important considerations in ensuring health status does not unduly increase the crash risk for the driver’s own safety and the safety of other road users.
Under the Road Safety Act 1986, VicRoads has an obligation to ensure that all licence holders meet the national medical standards for licensing and are medically fit to drive. The VicRoads Medical Review team manage the ‘fitness to drive’ assessments in line with the National Transport Commission’s national medical standards for licensing, the Assessing Fitness to Drive Guidelines 2016. The national standards are reviewed periodically following extensive consultation with health professional groups, industry groups, transport agencies and regulators. The next updated guidelines will be released on 22 June 2022.
When VicRoads receives information that raises concerns about a driver’s health that may affect their fitness to drive, VicRoads is obliged to request relevant medical reports from their general practitioner or treating specialist to assess the driver’s fitness to drive in relation to their underlying medical condition/s and driving task.
If the driver’s medical report shows no medical conditions impacting their fitness to drive, the driver’s review file will be closed. If the medical report shows the driver has a medical condition/s and meets the national medical licensing standards, they will be able to keep driving, but may be reviewed periodically to assess their ongoing fitness to drive, in particular for chronic medical conditions that may change over time.
VicRoads is cognisant of the costs and time involved in customers providing any medical reports, and for this reason will only request reports and/or assessments when necessary to complete the driver’s fitness to drive assessment, in line with the Road Safety Act and national medical standards for licensing.
In most cases, VicRoads will only require a medical report from the driver’s general practitioner and provides a timeframe of 2 months. If a driver has difficulty meeting this timeframe, VicRoads will work with the affected driver to minimise the impact on their individual case, including extensions of time to provide the reports on a case-by-case basis.
For drivers that receive periodical requests for medical reports, VicRoads can also arrange for these periodical requests to coincide with the driver’s regular or scheduled treating health practitioner appointments.
The VicRoads Medical Review team employ a number of medically trained staff that are responsible for reviewing medical reports and making informed decisions in regard to fitness to drive. VicRoads may also seek the advice of its independent external medical advisors for more complex medical cases. VicRoads medically trained staff or external medical advisors will often contact the driver’s treating health professional directly to seek more information to complete an assessment of the driver’s fitness to drive.
The VicRoads Online Medical Report (OMR) was developed in conjunction with relevant health industry groups and medical practitioners. Adoption of the OMR by medical practitioners has been encouraging, with approximately 70% of all medical reports received in April 2022 via the online system.
Assessing a driver’s fitness to drive is a responsibility that VicRoads takes extremely seriously, with each fitness to drive assessment conducted individually on a case by case basis, considering the individual’s circumstances and aligned to the national medical standards for licensing.
VicRoads understands that fitness to drive assessments can be a challenging process and distressing for some people. However, community safety, including that of the driver, is of paramount importance and cannot be compromised. VicRoads’ role as Victoria’s licensing authority is to keep all road users safe on our roads.