United we stand

Australia’s general practice peak bodies have banded together to boost their lobbying power and provide a consensus opinion on important matters affecting general practice. The national group, called United General Practice Australia, is an amalgamation of leaders from the AMA, RACPG, Divisions (Australian General Practice Network), Rural Doctors Association, General Practice Registrars Association, and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. Highest on their agenda is a call for an extra 100 national GP training places, international medical students, and national accreditation.

Gap gaffs downplayed

In early October, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon promised to crack down on medicos who failed to tell patients about gap fees but the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman has found the number of complaints about gap fees for hospital treatment is small. The Ombudsman received 2,385 complaints in the 12 months to June 2008, which was 45 (1.9%) more than the previous year. Most complaints were about health insurers (2267), followed by hospitals (133) and practitioners (56). Policy holders with Medibank Private (which has 28.6% market share), made 22% of the complaints. MBF Australia (15.9% market share) policy holders made 28.4% of the complaints and HBF (7.6% market share) made 2.1% of complaints.

Cosmetic cleanup

Speaking of clampdowns, the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS) is taking aim at inexperienced cosmetic surgeons. According to their new guidelines, ACCS has introduced a mandatory patient disclosure system, under which its members must inform patients if they have performed a particular procedure less than 100 times. The move could be a bid to cleanup cosmetic medicine’s reputation, with unqualified or inexperienced cosmetic mavericks often featuring on tabloid current affairs programs like Today Tonight. ACCS currently has an application before the Australian Medical Council to join their cousins in plastic surgery in having cosmetic surgery recognised as a specialty of its own.

Imaging the bush

After several months of development, regional imaging group Imaging the South (ITS) has partnered with the Department of Health and Telstra to provide clinical data stored by the practice to all WA public hospitals on the WAPACS system. For the first time, radiology images from patients in regional areas will be available to Perth’s tertiary hospitals online and in real time. The link is bi-directional, which means images from tertiary hospitals will also be able to be transmitted to ITS radiologists.

National health reform

‘Health reform’ are the buzzwords at all levels of government right now. With public consultations completed last month and more than 500 submissions received, the federal government’s National Health and Hospital Reform Commission is due to make its recommendations in about two months. The government has already touted better access to GPs (Super Clinics, anyone?) and creating e-medical records that can be read by patients as key issues in the health reform master plan. Commission head Christine Bennett said the lack of access to primary care providers (i.e. GPs) was a bigger issue for most submitters than hospital waiting lists. She also said questions were raised over the Commonwealth’s hospital funding to the states and territories, with suggestions money should be linked to outcomes rather than dished out in blocks. Are there any surprises in all of this?

Dying for a tan

A report from Brisbane and Sydney researchers has shown that solarium UV tanning beds, every year, kill 43 Australians through melanoma, cause 281 new cases of melanoma, and are responsible for another 2,600 annual skin cancer diagnoses. Tests at Australia’s nuclear safety agency showed that most beds have UV radiation intensity three times stronger than the midday summer sun in Brisbane. Not surprisingly, the researchers are calling for tough restrictions – if not outright bans – of solariums.

Getting out there

We all can empathise with the struggles deafblind people face, especially their battle to access support services. WA’s Senses Foundation has come up with a DVD titled Getting Out There to help agencies, local authorities, and community groups learn how to include people with disabilities. The DVD can be purchased at www.senses.asn.au.