Showing your privates

The General, Neale Fong, has been imploring patients to declare their private insurance when entering public hospitals. Most do not, fearing they will be lumbered with large gap payments as occurs in the private sector. Now, the public sector has upstaged private hospitals by offering a low or no-gap product so patients opt in, get their specialist of choice, and get their free TV hire, newspaper, local calls, and meal for a visitor. As a result, the public coffers get a welcome boost. The big question is if public hospitals can do this, why are private hospitals holding back??

Too many hats, too few scalpels

Just in case he didn’t have enough to do between being in charge of the Health Reform Taskforce, Acting Director General of Health, and Chairman of the WA Football Commission, Neale Fong recently donned another hat as Chairman of the Australian Health Workforce Committee. According to the Australian Financial Review, Neale Fong was nominated by the State Health Ministers to speak on the issue of surgeon numbers. This ignited another bun fight between the College of Surgeons and the State Health Ministers about training numbers and who is to blame. The State Health Ministers wanted 259 new trainee surgeons in 2006. The final number was 229. Neale Fong was quoted as saying “we are not happy with the numbers provided by the College”. These arguments have been around the roundabout before. The State accused the College of restricting trainee numbers to protect incomes for its members and create a cartel. The College claims that it would happily train more would-be surgeons if funding was provided by the State governments for training in hospitals. The ACCC inquired into surgical training in 2003 and may revisit the issue. Figures in the Financial Review showed Australia has one of the lower rates of practising specialists per thousand population in the OCD. Australia’s figure of 1.2 was below the OCD average of 1.7. New Zealand at 0.7 was the lowest. Germany and Sweden at 2.3 were the highest.?

France ending tobacco love affair?

Whilst Quit campaigns and restrictions on smoking in most public places are well established in WA and indeed most of Australia, this is not the case in all of the Western World. According to a report in Business Week, the percentage of Australian adults who smoke is 17%, and in the US 21%. However, in France the figure is 31%. The report claims that the French are starting to get serious about reducing smoking rates in a culture which has had a longstanding love affair with tobacco. According to the report, the French Government has upped its taxes on cigarettes and tipped a bucket of money into various stop smoking programmes. Apparently sales of Zyban in France increased 47% in 2005. It appears the French are making progress as the 31% smoking rate is down from a reported figure of over 50% in the 1980’s. Ce la vie!

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