Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced a review of how it deals with medical matters.
CASA director of aviation safety (DAS) Mark Skidmore says the review will look at the organisation’s “strategic approach to aviation medicine policy standards and clinical practice development, options for the better delivery of medical services in the future and the recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced aviation medicine doctors”.
“The management of aviation medical certificates is an issue of interest to many pilots and air traffic controllers,” Skidmore wrote in the March edition of his monthly CASA Briefing note.
“I recognise some people have strong views about CASA’s aviation medical system, the decision making processes and medical rulings.
“Our bottom line is to find ways to improve medical service delivery, ensure our decision making processes are transparent and evidence-based, as well as improving the management of complex medical matters.”
The review is due to be completed in the second half of 2015.
Skidmore noted CASA processed 25,855 medical applications in 2014, of which 102 were refused. There were 13 official complaints in the second half of 2014.
“Despite this low level of complaints and medical refusals I believe we can do better and the relatively small number of complaints we receive can be reduced,” Skidmore said.
Separately, Skidmore said CASA would also look at the current arrangements that allowed Designated Aviation Medical Examiners (DAME) to issue and renew class 2 medicals and consider the potential for them to renew class 1 and class 3 medical certificates in the future.
“I will ensure CASA consults widely and effectively with the aviation community during the course of these aviation medical reviews. Where criticism is warranted I will make sure the causes of problems are identified and addressed as quickly as possible,” Skidmore said.
CASA’s Office of Aviation Medicine was responsible for, among other things, the standards and policies regarding medical certification for pilots.
This included the recent move to change standards for colour vision deficiency (CVD), which has angered many pilots who have been flying with some form of CVD for many years but now faced the prospect of being grounded under new regulations.
Skidmore said in a speech to the Aviation Medical Society of Victoria on a February 28 that the new processes introduced in mid-2014 – before he joined the organisation as the new DAS – related to new applicants only and there were no impacts on existing pilots.
“In February 2015, CASA had 134 Class 1 medical certificate holders and 252 Class 2 medical certificate holders who have failed the Ishihara test,” Skidmore said in prepared remarks published on the CASA website.
Skidmore said CASA was considering the Colour Assessment and Diagnosis (CAD) test as a third-level test for detecting CVD.
“It is used by the UK and is also available in the US as an option for testing for CVD,” Skidmore said.
“CAD provides for colour and diagnostic testing, which can determine the degree of colour deficiency, which is something that is currently not able to be determined by the Ishihara or Farnsworth tests.
“Whilst I am not considering further changes to policy or standards at this time, any proposed changes will be consulted through the SCC Medical sub-committee. Pilots with existing CVD restrictions will require no other tests related to CVD, unless other medical reasons determine a need to do so.”
The head of CASA’s Office of Aviation Medicine Pooshan Navathe stepped down at the end of 2014, after six years in the role. Currently, Michael Drane was CASA’s acting principal medical officer.
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