US military backs Avita

Avita Medical (formerly C3) has been awarded US$1.45m from the US Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) to accelerate approval of the company’s ReCell Autologous Cell Harvesting device in the US market, with the aim to make the product available to soldiers. Given its desire to throw itself into conflicts, the US military has an active interest in developing advanced regenerative wound care and burns treatments. This could potentially reap millions for the WA-based biotech and could, at last, be the turning point in their somewhat disappointing fortunes.

Fraudsters sacked

Life inside a big bureaucracy can be comfortable, but some people take the perks a little too far. In late May, 18 staff members at the WA Health Department’s Health Corporate Network (HCN) were sacked for alleged salary fraud. The alleged fraudsters were caught skimming some bucks off the top through claiming entertainment and meal expenses they weren’t entitled to. Having tried the food in WA’s hospitals, some in the Medical Forum can’t help but feel sympathy. The 18 staff members are presently on paid leave and preparing a response to the allegations.

Palliative care boost

The State government is pumping $14m into rural and paediatric palliative care and establishing Palliative Care Area Health Teams in the metropolitan area to “build links between health services and to boost patients’ access to care close to where they live.” The government says the “WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network will manage the project and work collaboratively with metropolitan and country health services to deliver palliative care services.” However, we were burnt by a government announcement last month about the collaboration of cardiothoracic services across the metro area. One tipster informs us that there is considerable disagreement between the government’s view and the cardio surgeons’ view on the levels of collaboration and coordination required. Stay tuned!

Medicare’s sticky fingers

The AMA’s fears over patient privacy are well founded. Under new legislation that takes effect from July 1, doctors will be forced to hand over patients’ medical records to Medicare and the bureaucrats will legitimately be able to flick through the sensitive medical information. In mid-June, the Senate community affairs committee handed down its final report on the Rudd Government’s proposed increase to Medicare compliance auditing, approving Medicare’s access to the records but recommending that Medicare staff themselves be regularly audited to curtail improper use of the records. The Medicare compliance audit program will supposedly save the government $70m, but how much bad blood will it generate?

RFDS facelift

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has unveiled a $4.5m revamp of its patient transfer facility at Jandakot Airport and they have spared no expense in jazzing the place up. The facility includes a patient resuscitation area, indoor parking bays for three ambulances, offices, and sleeping and bathroom facilities. Premier Barnett did the honours at the opening, welcoming the facelift (first built in the 1980s). Back then, 500 patients a year passed through Jandakot. Now, it’s around 5,000.

Western diet drives kids mad

The boffins at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research have released a study that links Western-style diets to more mental health problems in teenagers (published in Preventive Medicine). Report author and leader of Nutrition Studies at the Institute, Dr Wendy Oddy, said the results were based on detailed analysis of diet records and behaviour checklists that were collected from more than 1600 WA 14-year-olds in the Raine Cohort Study. Dr Oddy pointed the finger at “diets high in takeaway foods, red meat, confectionary, soft drinks, white bread, and unrefined cereals” contributing to higher levels of behaviour and emotional problems.

The attraction of Charlies

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital has joined some prestigious company (such as Cedars-Sinai and the Mayo Clinic in the US) in being awarded Magnet accreditation by the American Nurse Credentialing Centre (ANCC). What’s the attraction of magnet accreditation, you’re wondering? It’s an award that recognises hospitals for being centres for excellence in nursing and delivery of high quality care to patients. A magnet hospital is a lodestone that retains nurses who feel a pull to provide excellent care. The ability to magnetise small bits of metal is not part of the process, apparently. There are just 332 magnet hospitals worldwide. Charlies is the second Australian hospital to receive accreditation.

Drink spiking

A study from the Australian College of Emergency Medicine on drink spiking has shown that people typically pass out from binge drinking and not the convenient excuse of someone slipping in a mickey. Two Perth hospitals admitted 97 people claiming to have had their drinks spiked over the past 19 months. Tests revealed not one of them had actually been drugged. This should be welcome news for parents whose daughters rock up at 2am completely legless, claiming someone must have spiked one of her half dozen vodkas or the bottle of champagne she had guzzled down in the previous four hours.