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‘High drama’ as the government bungles medical gas bill

Article image for ‘High drama’ as the government bungles medical gas bill

A bill designed to improve medical gas installation laws has stalled in the NSW lower house amid a confusing scene.

The Medical Gas Bill introduced by NSW Labor MP Mark Buttigieg is in response to a gas mix-up in 2016 at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital where nitrous oxide was confused for oxygen and administered to two newborns. John Ghanem died, and Amelia Khan was left with lifelong brain damage.

Mr Buttigieg told Deborah Knight he witnessed a “morning of high drama” today as the government bungled voting on the bill.

The bill, which had already passed the NSW upper house, was expected to be voted down in the lower house with the government indicating they wouldn’t support it because it lacked the detail necessary, would have a lengthy commencement, and they would be putting forward their own changes.

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson argued the bill doesn’t provide rigorous qualification requirements and criticised Labor’s “lack of consultation with the industry” (full statement below).

Mr Buttigieg said the government made it clear they thought the bill was deficient, however when it came to voting on it, no one from the government said no.

“The I’s had it… which under parliamentary process means that the bill passes.

“Then the speaker belatedly, obviously realising what had happened, called a division.

“Which she’s actually not allowed to do under the parliamentary process.

“The division then proceeded and of course the government carried the day.”

Mr Buttigieg said he wants to see an urgent change to make sure a medical gas tragedy never happens again.

“Let’s forget all the shenanigans and get back to the core of the issue.”

Click PLAY below to listen to the interview

Full statement from Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson

The NSW Government will bring legislation to establish a scheme to license those installing medical gas in NSW by November 1. The Labor Bill presented to the house today had a number of areas that needed significant revision to ensure the scheme would be workable for industry and require higher standards of qualifications.

Under the Labor Bill it was possible for people currently installing medical gas to receive a license and not have undertaken new, specialist qualifications for up to five years. There were also a number of other issues that needed addressing, including lack of consultation with the industry.

The Government has committed to an implementation date of November 1, a far shorter time frame of commencement than the Private Member’s Bill.

In the interim, medical gas installation will continue to be undertaken in accordance with the Australian Standard (AS 2896-2011) and NSW Health Guidelines.

NSW Health has implemented all the state-wide recommendations outlined in a report by the Chief Health Officer in relation to the installation of medical gas.


Image: Getty

Deborah Knight