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Sunday 20/11 2011
ASAR Newsletter November 2011

Threat of Legal Action Against ASAR by Private Education Provider

The November 2011 edition of the ASAR Newsletter will focus on an issue that may have serious implications for the short and medium term allocation of ASAR’s resources and for the future of accreditation of training programs for sonographers in Australia.
Given the seriousness of the issue, the contents of this article, has been vetted by ASAR’s lawyers.

On 31 October 2011, the ASAR, and individuals were threatened with legal action from a private education provider (PEP) if ASAR does not consider their proposed course for accreditation in a timely manner. This threat was echoed by a letter from the PEP’s lawyers in subsequent correspondence.

ASAR’s position on this matter has been made clear to the PEP on more than one occasion. In summary, ASAR is the subject of pressure (some might call it bullying) to have the PEP’s proposed course approved under ASAR’s former Program Accreditation Guidelines (“PAG”) whereas ASAR maintains that the new PAG (due approximately late December 2011) must apply.

  • The ASAR is very concerned that the PEP’S tactics to date have been to completely ignore all decisions, requests and advice from ASAR that go against its agenda.
  • From ASAR’s perspective the threat of legal action from the PEP against ASAR and individuals will only serve to further impede a suitable resolution of this matter.
  • The ASAR is also concerned that the PEP is going directly to the DoHA to complain about ASAR, rather than raising their concerns directly with ASAR.
  • ASAR is seeking to address these concerns with the DoHA.

 

Increase in fees for sonographers to enter and renew their accredited status on the Registry
Given the threat of legal action, ASAR has no other choice but to increase its fees in 2012 by approximately 20% to raise additional revenue to cover the costs of ASAR’s defense to any potential legal action from the PEP. This increase will affect over 4,800 accredited and student sonographers on the Registry and those sonographers applying to join the Registry. ASAR Council would like to confirm to all sonographers, its frustration at being forced into a position where it has no choice but to meet the threat of litigation by increasing fees.

Independent review of ASAR’s structure and processes
As indicated in the September 2011 Newsletter ASAR has accepted the recommendations from the independent review conducted by NFP Analysts. We are currently working with external consultants to progress the Governance restructure and PAG review.

ASAR is determined to ensure that the implementation of the recommendations from the external review are not impeded or influenced in any way by this matter. ASAR has and will continue to demonstrate that it is open to restructure and change in order to ensure ASAR is in a robust position to respond to and operate within the evolving training program accreditation and continuing professional development sector.

A history of this matter with key dates is provided below.

Please email any comments or questions to registry@asar.com.au

22 August 2010
ASAR Council voted to undertake an independent review of its structure and processes by appointing an external facilitator.

6 September 2010
NFP Analysts were contracted by ASAR to conduct the review.

28 November 2010
External review stakeholders’ forum held. A member of the PEP’s Board was on the invitation list but did not attend.

Late November 2010
ASAR received a letter from the PEP requesting a meeting with the ASAR Board for preliminary discussions about the proposed course.

14 December 2010
ASAR responded to the PEP inviting them to a meeting on 20 February 2011.

20 February 2011
The PEP met with the ASAR Council and provided an outline for the proposed course. There was no informal or formal application for accreditation.

2 April 2011
The NFP analysts report was presented to the ASAR Council.

10 May 2011
ASAR wrote to the PEP stating that the proposed course may be presented for presentation however:

  • the course required accreditation through the Vocational Education and Training Sector, prior to consideration and
  • the application for accreditation had to be made according to the ASAR program accreditation guidelines (PAG)

4 June 2011
The outcomes of the NFP Analysts report were accepted by the ASAR Council.

13 September 2011
The ASAR newsletter informed all readers that the PAG was being reviewed. The review of the PAG is one of the recommendations from the report from NFP Analysts who conducted the independent review of ASAR’s structure and processes.
ASAR also emailed all stakeholders on 13 September 2011, notifying them that no new applications for accreditation of sonography training programs will be accepted until after the PAG review is finished.

Stakeholders were also notified that reaccreditation processes for existing accredited training programs would continue. ASAR received an email on 13 September 2011 from the PEP seeking clarification that the mentioned delay in program accreditation application acceptance did not apply to the proposed PEP course.

19 September 2011
A letter was sent to the PEP from Williamson Legal on behalf of ASAR:

  • informing them that a formal application for accreditation of the proposed course had not been received
  • outlining the reasons why a formal application for the proposed course had not been received
  • stating again that the formal application for accreditation of the proposed course would need to wait until the review of the PAG is completed and the proposed course had received VET sector accreditation

30 September 2011
At ASAR’s request a meeting with representatives from the Diagnostic Services Branch of DoHA took place. The agenda for the meeting included an introduction of the new EO of ASAR, clarification of ASAR’s position on the proposed vet sector course, providing DoHA with an overview and timeline for ASAR’s governance restructure and the PAG review.

ASAR was represented by the EO and a Councillor. One of the DoHA representatives raised concerns that in their view ASAR had a possible perception problem, as some stakeholders felt that the only reason for the PAG review was to make it more difficult for the proposed VET sector course to be accredited.

ASAR reiterated that the PAG are being reviewed to ensure they are aligned with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and informed DoHA that the review will be conducted by an external consultant, who has an in depth knowledge of and experience in VET sector training.

5 October 2011
ASAR wrote to DoHA thanking the representatives from the Diagnostic Services Branch for their time. ASAR informed DoHA that Council was holding a teleconference to discuss the concerns DoHA had raised about possible perception problems.
The letter to DoHA also expressed ASAR’s disappointment about the possible misperceptions given that there had been significant stakeholder engagement during the independent review of ASAR conducted by NFP Analysts Pty Ltd.
It was also noted in the letter that the ASAR Council voted to undertake the independent review of its structure and processes by appointing an external facilitator at its meeting on 22 August 2010. This decision was made well before the PEP’s proposed course came into the picture in November 2010.

On 5 October 2011 ASAR also received an email from the PEP stating that the representatives from the Diagnostic Services Branch of DoHA had recommended that PEP seek a meeting with the Executive Officer and or representatives of the ASAR Board to engage in discussion surrounding the course submission and approval process for the proposed course. The PEP indicated that they would like to meet within a week.

10 October 2011
The ASAR EO emailed the PEP inviting it to a meeting with three ASAR Councillors, the EO and ASAR’s legal representative, Mr Williamson, to discuss the proposed course. ASAR had proposed a meeting occur within days, but this was rejected by the PEP.
The earliest date thereafter that both parties were available to meet was 31 October 2011, in Melbourne.

21 October 2011
The Agenda for the meeting on 31 October 2011 was emailed to the PEP.

The meeting did not proceed in accordance with the Agenda as the PEP wanted the meeting “off record” and not “on the record” and “without prejudice”.

From ASAR’s perspective, these requests were contradictory to the PEP’s assertion that they came to the meeting in the spirit of collaboration and that the PEP would be reporting back to DoHA. Conducting the meeting in this manner would also impede ASAR’s ability to report back to DoHA.

In the interest of transparency, ASAR representatives did not agree to PEP’s request. The PEP also objected to the attendance of Mr Williamson from Williamson Legal, even though it was clear from the Agenda sent 21 October that he would be attending.
During the meeting, PEP threatened the ASAR, and individuals with legal action if ASAR does not consider their proposed course for accreditation in a timely manner.

From ASAR’s perspective we came to the meeting on 31 October 2011 prepared to discuss a way forward. This opportunity never eventuated.

The PEP’s solicitors have written to ASAR making further assertions and a veiled threat of litigation. Williamson Legal have now responded and are preparing for the litigation which will probably commence in the near future.

Final comments:

  1. ASAR is charged with accrediting ultrasound courses. It will carry out this obligation without fear or favour.
  2. The courses that ASAR accredits deal with ensuring that sonographers are capable of performing the role for which they are engaged, namely providing expert readings of ultrasound reports. Their capacity to do so is fundamental to the health of the Australian population and the high regard in which sonographers are held in the medical profession and generally.
  3. The new PAG will ensure that ASAR meets the standards required. We note that standards are increasing and ASAR is not the only organization that is reviewing accreditation guidelines to keep abreast of changes.
  4. ASAR nor its Council will be bullied by any PEP or its representatives.