Bringing services into line
After-hours and deputising services, which to the casual observer could be described as a free-for-all, are under scrutiny from the RACGP as well as their peak body, the National Association of Medical Deputising Services (NAMDS). The College released a four-page position statement responding to the sharp rise in the use of after-hours item numbers calling for better-qualified doctors, tighter links with general practices, and a crackdown on direct-to-consumer advertising. This last point picks up on a major national TV campaign by the National Home Doctor Service. But let’s not forget the new kid on the advertising block, social media. Dial-a-Doctor has been shaking its owl tail feathers in the Facebook space with some success if our feed is anything to go by but each of the other NAMDS affiliated groups have a social media presence – Perth After Hours Medical Service, WA Deputising Medical Service and Australian Locum Medical Services. NAMDS president Ben Keneally agrees with the College that after-hours services need to work more closely with general practice adding that more recent players entering the after-hours space did not appear to be linked to general practice but instead initiated consultations directly with patients. However, he disputed the call to crack down on advertising. Mr Keneally is also head of the National Home Doctor Service. He said patients needed to be aware of after-hours services which prevented unnecessary ED presentations.
Hefty fine for Bet365
In the May edition we published some sobering figures about the rise of online gambling and the potential health risks associated with it. Nearly half of non-problem gamblers bet on sports online while 70% and 71% of moderate and problem gamblers, respectively, bet online. So we read with interest a judgement from the Federal Court which fined Bet365 $2.7m for making false representations to new customers, offering them ‘free bets’. The case was brought on by the ACCC when it discovered Bet365’s promotion, between March 2013 and January 13, 2014, was misleading and deceptive and involved false representations. In order to receive the offer, new customers were required to deposit and then gamble $200 of their own money first, before they could receive their $200 free bet. The fine print was not brought to customers’ attention. Justice Beach described the company’s conduct as “serious”, “extensive” and “reckless”.
ACCC after Medibank
The ACCC has instituted proceedings against Medibank Private, alleging it contravened Australian Consumer Law by engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct. The allegations are in relation to Medibank’s failure to notify its members of its subsidiary brand, ahm, and its decision to limit benefits paid to members for in-hospital pathology and radiology services. If the Federal Court upholds the allegations, it will be a serious moment for Australia’s biggest private health insurer, which has been listed on the ASX for 18 months.
Ambos buy GP clinics
News of St John Ambulance WA buying up Apollo Health’s four bulk-billing GP clinics (Cockburn, Joondalup, Armadale and Cannington) is a bold but not entirely surprising move into the primary care space. Ambulance boss Tony Ahern, who is also on the board of the WA Primary Health Alliance, the overseeing body of the three local Primary Health Networks, said this type of service was common elsewhere in the world and had been successful in reducing ramping and lessen stress on EDs. St John put its toe in these waters during the flu season of 2013 (which he wrote about in the June edition of that year) using a GP clinic set up at Hollywood Private Hospital as the destination for non-urgent call-outs. Health Minister John Day said he wished the enterprise well while AMA spokesperson and head of ED at SCGH David Mountain was less than enthusiastic saying it could lead to confusion and put lives at risk. “They need to make these practices run I presume [at a profit], they’re not taking them on to make a loss so yes, there is a concern and they need to deal with any conflict of interest to make sure there isn’t an incentive for their crews to go to the wrong place,” he told the ABC.