Ramsay and HBF at loggerheads

Ramsay Health Care, operator of Hollywood, Joondalup, Attadale, and Glengarry private hospitals has withdrawn from negotiations with HBF over fee increases, which HBF claims are too high. The health insurer put pressure on Ramsay through a letter sent to members in July warning of higher admission charges, but when quizzed, an HBF spokesperson confirmed HBF will honour its previous agreement with Ramsay and not charge members default ‘second tier’ benefits. The dispute is before the Health Insurance Ombudsman with a resolution expected soon. Stay tuned!

Stan and the Medical Board

Doctors may have been worried about where their fees were heading after reading in The West that fraud squad detectives had charged prominent Stamfords accountant Stan Palassis with stealing $80,000 from the WA Medical Board. Stamfords, under an arrangement with the Medical Board, handled the books and employed its staff. The good news is that this arrangement ceased in July 2007, when the Board moved premises and took on Pam Malcolm as the new CEO. If you Google Stan, you will find that ERG CEO Peter Fogarty, Stan, and the Federal Court were in the news over a disputed $3m in December 2006. The plot thickens.

Organ donation boost

Amendments have been made to WA’s Consent to Medical Treatment legislation to facilitate organ donation after cardiac death. This removes an anomaly where doctors were not protected from prosecution if they withdrew treatment from patients for whom further treatment was futile. Now, with the consent of relatives, such patients can become organ donors after cardiac death, determined by cardiovascular measurements rather than brain death. This clinical scenario is interwoven with Advanced Healthcare Directives and guardianship decisions, all sensitive issues that Kim Hames will have to navigate before proclaiming the legislation in coming months. Meanwhile, teams consisting of medical directors and donation nurses are being set up in major public hospitals to better identify potential donors, support families, and facilitate organ donation. DonateWest (9222 0222) can answer queries.

Inflating fat figures

WA researchers have found 29% of 14-year-olds and 25% of eight-year-olds were found to be obese and in a “high-risk cluster” for future health problems (well above the 6-8% of children ‘officially’ classified as obese). The team from UWA’s School of Medicine and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, which published their findings in the MJA, said their stats contradicted the belief held by some that childhood obesity was in plateau, not plague proportions.

Derby health funding

Aboriginal health is always talked about but rarely gets practical support. In a bid to change this, Kim Hames recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State Government and Derby not-for-profit group Unity of First People of Australia. The MOU is worth $2m over four years to expand the ‘A Roadmap Towards Better Health Program’, “a holistic wellness program, which focuses on the promotion of healthy behaviours and lifestyle choices to decrease rates of chronic disease among Aboriginal people.” Now, if they can only get some doctors up there and fill some of the remote nursing posts with nurse practitioners, Aboriginal health will look in much better shape. Better yet, perhaps they could entice some prescribing optometrists or pharmacists?

Luddites or better care?

A recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report says 97 % of GPs have computers on their desks (2007-08), up 10% from 2000-01, but 11% are choosing not to use the darn things. Clearly, many time-pressed GPs are either IT challenged or prefer to concentrate on patients rather than keyboards. Previously, a 2006 study showed only 22% of GPs made use of all of their software’s clinical functions (including holding all data electronically), so there may an element of training required, but unless Medicare becomes more generous, where are GPs going to find the time?


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