Countdown for PHNs

The January 27 deadline for applications to run the three WA Primary Health Networks may have just passed but the four bidders, Panorama Health (PNML), the rural alliance (SW and Kimberley-Pilbara MLs), Bentley-Armadale ML and the WA Alliance (representing the remaining Medicare Locals) will not know until March if their bids are successful. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to manoeuvre given that PHNs are expected to be up and running by July 1. Talk has it that the government has seen the light (a month of enlightenments, it seems) and that there will be a 12-month handover between PHNs and MLs, with the obvious alternative being a services black hole. While bids are confidential, anecdotally there is no talk of any commercial bidders (Bupa et al), leaving existing MLs bidding for other ML turf. If this is the case, that’s an expensive exercise (estimated to be about $150m) in deckchair shuffling. Now the PHN process is advanced, the Labor Party has indicated it will keep PHNs if elected. That might comfort the bidders, but, then, we’ve all heard that one before.

Networks history repeating?
Archived papers from the WA Chronic Disease Summit (May 14, 2010, organised by the Health Department and WA GP Network) show Dr Simon Towler as champion of the cause, with over 50 models of care developed for WA Health (see relating to chronic disease management. Various speakers highlighted lack of consumer involvement, duplication of services and information, low referrals from GPs to programs, and difficulties in coordinating service providers. While there were obvious successes among the many plans and detailed research (Curtin Uni mainly), getting people across diverse areas onto the same page was no easy task. And so we wonder if 39 of the 144 attendees coming from now disbanded divisions of general practice (or their rebadged “network” names) make a difference to getting things done.

Anderson-Ian-Mr Jan15MDAN’s new leadership
After the failed MDA-MIGA merger turmoil last year, MDA National has appointed Mr Ian Anderson as the new CEO leaving long-time incumbent Peter Forbes free to retire after 39 years at the organisation. Mr Anderson has most recently been the CEO overseeing the construction of the new $400m public and private hospitals at Midland for St John of God Health Care. The MDAN-MIGA proposal prompted concern from AMA WA that MDAN’s traditional WA focus would shift east if the merger went ahead. WA members need not worry on that score with Mr Anderson’s experience ranging from the Midland role, Director of Capital Management at NMHS, CEO of SKG and general manager of HBF, rooting him firmly into the local health establishment. Dr Glen Power is the new Midland CEO.

Local cells sell
The past year has been a big one for local biotech Orthocell. Readers will remember the regenerative medicine company had opened its new facilities in Malaga and listed on the ASX in 2014 and before year’s end it announced it was partnering with Swedish biotech Bonesupport, which produces injectable bone substitutes. Together they hope to play a part in the $2.1b global bone graft and substitutes market. Speaking of markets, GobalData reported last month that there were a record 96 mergers and acquisitions in the medical device industry, which has left the market smaller but with some powerful hitters. The biggest deal of the year was Medtronic’s $42.9 billion acquisition of Covidien, creating the world’s largest medical device company.

A whacky investment?
Despite no sign of legislative movement locally, WA investors are apparently queuing up to be a part of medical marijuana company Phytotech Medical’s initial public offering. Business News reports that Phytotech will accept $932,000 of oversubscriptions bringing its IPO to $5.9m. The company’s base is in Israel with sites in California and Uruguay, but its executive director is WA-born Ross Smith. He said the ASX required Phytotech to procure legal opinion prior to listing, now it’s all systems go. The IPO comes at the time when the NSW government is funding three medical marijuana trials and the new Victorian Labor government is working to make good its election promise to legalise medical marijuana by the end of the year.

Mental Health Plan
Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney made his biggest splash since taking up the role in February with the launch of the draft Mental Health Plan in December. Media reports headlined the closure of Graylands Hospital by 2025. Those who have seen the former Under Treasurer in action know he’s a doer not a sayer. The 131-page plan proposes a shift from expensive centralised hospital responses and looks to make treatment and support services accessible at the local primary care level. The plan is open for comment until March 15.


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