28-strong lobby formed

The mysterious-sounding ‘Board of Reference’ has been formed by the WA branch of the Austn College of Health Service Executives and its members read like a who’s who of the WA medical scene. Reminiscent of a super-band (anyone thinking Travelling Wilburys) it is led by Senior VP and former DG of Health, Dr Neale Fong. He said the 28-strong board will “provide support for the development of health leaders, and bring cross sector collaboration to highlight significant health leadership issues for WA”. Members include Graham Kierath, Bob Kucera, Jim McGinty, Kevin Prince, Ian Taylor, Mike Daube, Dr Peter Flett, Kevin Cass-Ryall, Penny Flett, Professor Gary Geelhoed, Dr Michael Stanford and Chris McGowan, amongst others.

Money for old code

A quick scan of the government tenders page always reveals some interesting details about where our health dollars are being spent. WACHS has awarded just over $260,000 for “the provision of clinical coding services” for the East Kimberley Health Services. For those who don’t know, medical coding is the “process of transforming descriptions of medical diagnoses and procedures into universal medical code numbers” which are used health insurance companies, govt health programs and workers comp carriers amongst others, according to the well-known and respected Wickipedia.com. The lucky contractor given the task, which expires in January next year, is Sheree Gray.

SJOGH Murdoch bares all

In-hospital infections like MRSA are easily spread by poor nursing. Patients at SJOGH Murdoch will be getting the clean hands treatment after a range of Australian National Hand Hygiene initiatives at the hospital. Hand Hygiene Australia’s ‘Hand Hygiene Online Learning Package’ has been completed by more than 450 caregivers to date. A ‘Bare Below the Elbows’ policy has also been implemented, which requires all staff who have direct clinical contact with patients to comply with a dress code that supports good clinical practice to minimise iatrogenic infection spread.

Stop CTs says PSR

Doctors across the country have come under fire from the Professional Services Review (PSR) over ‘unnecessary and distressing” procedures, particularly CT scans. Nationally, 136 practitioners were referred for investigation in 2008-09 – four optometrists, 13 medical specialists and 119 GPs. PSR Director Dr Tony Webber said Australian practitioners order CT scans for patients at a higher rate than comparable countries. Risks from ionising radiation are well known, particularly in younger patients. Having recouped >$1.5m from practitioners last financial year, the PSR is on the warpath for instances of inappropriate CT scans, ‘deep laceration’ repairs by GPs, benzodiazepine and narcotics prescribing and inappropriate pathology tests.

AMA Family Affair

AMA Executive Director Paul Boyatzis and Dr Rosanna Capolingua have won the hearts of AMA members with their recent marriage, making the couple a powerful force in AMA decision making. While Paul prefers to remain out of the limelight, his hands-on involvement in all aspects of the AMA in WA is well known. Dr Capolingua, as an ‘envoy’ for the AMA, has benefitted from AMA nomination and electioneering assistance for a number of prominent positions in the medical community. Nephew Anthony Boyatzis, who heads up AMA Services, adds to the family portrait.

More access for NPs

Medical Forum has previously profiled nurse practitioners in WA and diverging opinions on their usefulness and desire for clinical autonomy. The federal government has just enacted legislation to make this happen (including PBS and MBS access), no doubt as a response to consumer block to health services, largely a result of the government-induced doctor shortage. The Australian Practice Nurses Association, representing some of the 27,000 nurses practicing in primary health care, has welcomed Rudd’s plan for the Commonwealth to be the sole funder of all of primary health care, in the name of better integration of nursing services (primary care, hospital, domiciliary). They point to “patient benefits from a patient-centred, systematic and a multi-disciplinary approach” in chronic disease management, care of the elderly, family and child health. Over 8000 nurses are specialising in general practice and most of these are expected to quickly become autonomous nurse practitioners under the new legislation.

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