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New blood-borne viruses guidelines released

16 July 2020 | Avant Media

All doctors and medical students performing exposure-prone procedures (EPPs) are required to comply with the Medical Board of Australia’s new blood-borne viruses guidelines from 6 July 2020.

The Guidelines: Registered health practitioners and students in relation to blood-borne viruses, were drafted to support doctors and medical students to comply with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia’s (CDNA) guidelines. These guidelines recommend that doctors who perform EPPs (commonly those performing surgical operations) take reasonable steps to know their blood-borne virus status and be tested for blood-borne viruses at least once every three years.

The new guidelines apply to all registered doctors and medical students who:

  • perform EPPs defined as procedures where there is a risk of injury to the doctor resulting in exposure of the patient’s open tissues to the blood of the doctor. These procedures include those where the doctor’s hands (whether gloved or not) may be in contact with sharp instruments, needle tips or sharp tissues (spicules of bone or teeth) inside a patient’s open body cavity, wound or confined anatomical space where the hands or fingertips may not be completely visible at all times.
  • treat other doctors and medical students living with a blood-borne virus and who perform EPPs.
  • live with a blood-borne virus, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), HBV (hepatitis B virus) or HCV (hepatitis C virus).

Upon initial registration, the Medical Board will ask doctors who perform EPPs to declare they will comply with the CDNA guidelines. Doctors renewing their registration who perform EPPs will have to declare they have complied with the CDNA guidelines in the previous registration period and state they will comply in the upcoming registration period.

Mandatory reporting obligations

Under the new guidelines, treating doctors are only required to inform Ahpra if doctors or medical students are not complying with the guidelines and potentially pose a risk to the public.

Specifically, treating doctors must report if their practitioner-patient is living with a blood-borne virus, performing EPPs and:

Advocating for members

Avant supports the introduction of the new guidelines, particularly in clarifying that doctors treating a practitioner or student with a BBV do not have an obligation to report their patient if they are complying with the CDNA guidelines.

View our submission to Ahpra on the blood-borne guidelines where we advocated for:

  • Improving employers’ and the general community’s understanding of blood borne diseases to reduce the prejudice that doctors with a BBV experience.
  • The right of all practitioners to protect themselves from transmission of BBVs and to be equipped with practical guidance about how to practise safely to avoid contracting a BBV.
  • The appropriateness of relying on the expertise of the CDNA in this area and deferring to the CDNA guidelines.

Useful resources

If you require medico-legal advice on this or any other issue, email us on nca@avant.org.au or call 1800 128 268, available 24/7 in emergencies.


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