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VIC Australian Consumer Law on Paying for Missed Appointments?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by Dianne Horvath, 24 February 2016.

  1. Dianne Horvath

    Dianne Horvath Active Member

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    I'm a practice manager of an Allied Health Clinic and an Allied Health Professional myself. When patients at my practice miss appointments, I have never, myself or under any other practitioner or doctor, charged a full or partial fee for cancelled appointments.

    I have a new Psychologist who has started to demand 1/2 their fee if a patient cancels. I have tried to look this up with our governing body AHPRA, but there's no clear answer. Is there an Australian Consumer Law which enforces the client to pay?
     
  2. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Possibly yes. An oral contract is made, therefore, contract law can be applied. If a patient cancels through no fault of the doctor, then the doctor is entitled to damages under contract law. Though this is a long and difficult path to take to get the $200-300.

    I'd imagine with the types of patients, some mentally ill, this would form a legal basis for non-payment due to failure to understand that a cancellation still requires a payment.

    May be best to tell patients at the time of booking a cancellation that a fee will apply.
     
  3. Dianne Horvath

    Dianne Horvath Active Member

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    Thanks so much for your reply. I really appreciate that and I understand what you're stating there with verbal agreements and contracts which are signed on initial appointments when a full history's been taken I forgot all about that.

    Just one last question, we still never charge our patients when they miss appointments because they could be in car accidents, or the children are sick, so when does this become fair that the practitioner charges even if you have extenuating circumstances, and if you've got a good report with the practitioner, you wouldn't want to ruin that with a lawsuit, I understand, but it's not really the mentally ill am concerned about, it's people that are in low socio-economic groups they can't afford this, they don't meet the free schedule, but they don't have enough money to pay the full schedule. I don't really see it fair that they pay $100 fee for a missed appointment when the child is ill.

    Is my only option to look for a psychologist that will waive this fee?

    Maybe I need to read the art of negotiation.

    Thank you.
     
  4. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    Realistically, the recovery of fees for missed appointments should be governed by the contract that exists between the allied health service and the psychologist. If the service hasn't agreed to recover fees for the psychologist and it didn't form a term of the contract (which is unlikely since the service doesn't recover fees for any other professionals operating there), then I doubt the service has any obligation to recover those fees as the psychologist is requesting.
     
  5. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    If it's your clinic policy and you make your policy known to clients at the time of booking, then you can probably enforce it. If you are asking for payment of half or all of the fee for the appointment then the "damage" is a genuine estimate of loss - therefore, it would unlikely be classified as a penalty.
     
  6. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    Don't think of it as breach of contract question <good naturedly jabs @Rod with elbow>
    Think of it as a consumer law question.

    Bottom line - unless you include your cancellation arrangements
    as one of the terms and conditions of taking a patient on,
    then you (that is, neither the practice nor the individual trick cyclist who rents your space)
    don't really have any basis upon which to claim any part of the would-have-been-fee.
    You may find this helpful. Scroll down to the bit about medical practices.
    The AMA has some doctrine on it - but it is mere guidance - they don't make law.
    You may find that the numerous comparable bodies that are to Acupuncture (and/or Chinese Medicine)
    as the AMA is to western medicine, provide similar guidance.

    Understand also that cancellation can work both ways.
    If, for example, a patient is kept waiting an unreasonably long time beyond an appointed time,
    then they can just walk out - because it's not them who failed to keep the appointment,
    it was the provider!
     
    Sophea likes this.

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