Illicit drugs decline

Two recently released national studies of drug users showed a significant decline in the use of crystal methamphetamine (a.k.a. ice). Prof Steve Allsop, director of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin Uni, said these reports mirrored WA results from a year ago. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare survey of August 2008 showed a 38% decline in cannabis use in WA since 2001. Prof Allsop said broader community investigations were showing this decline in drug use, not just a stabilisation. And those worried about permanent damage to adolescent brains from alcohol abuse will be pleased to learn the 2008 Australian School Students Alcohol and Drug survey showed 15.9% of high school students had never tried alcohol (up from 12.3%) and frequency of alcohol consumption had also decreased in the past year (63.9%). Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs was impressed that more students were getting the message about the dangers.

Doctors in fear

Research showing almost two-thirds of Australian GPs have been exposed to patient-initiated violence in the past year has prompted the Federal Government to launch a national investigation. Apparently, wait times and denial of access sent patients ‘troppo’ most often. The Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at ANU found verbal abuse most common. Reception staff, not surprisingly, bore the brunt of it, often daily. The DH&A has funded the institute to do an online survey on workplace aggression and intimidation in general practice nationally. The online survey will be open for four weeks, for GPs and practice staff to complete.

NPs reined in?

Nicola Roxon issued a public warning to nurse practitioners at the recent RACGP Conference in Perth, saying any who set up independently of team care arrangements should not fragment patient care. Ms Roxon told delegates the Government understood GP concerns and was keenly aware of the risks if the correct collaborative frameworks were not in place. WA-based group Revive plans to roll out up to 150 franchised nurse practitioner clinics in pharmacies. Revive managing director Louise Stewart welcomed the minister’s comments, saying her model did focus on collaborative team-based care and the Revive Clinics were set up before government decided to give NPs MBS and PBS access, which would simply make their services available to all.

RRV strikes in SW

The WA DOH has reminded people in the South-West to take mozzy precautions following evidence of Ross River virus (RRV) activity in the Peel region. Acting medical entomologist Ms Sue Harrington said reported cases from there had increased. A few cases have also been reported in Perth and other areas of the South-West. Mosquito species capable of carrying RRV have proliferated after high tides and rainfall during September and future risk will increase with increases in temperature and other environmental conditions that favour mosquito breeding and virus activity.

More funding for aged-care

As this month’s focus on aged care has made the editors of Medical Forum only too well aware, everyone engaged in the field knows a crisis is looming but nobody is sure quite how to avoid it. The population bulge from Baby Boomers is about to enter its extended retirement years and stretch an already overstretched sector. With this in mind, the Federal Government has committed to funding up to 4,600 new training places in aged care, under a four-year $19m training plan. Up to 2,400 places will be funded in residential aged care, with the remainder in community training. Federal Ageing Minister Justine Elliot said a well-trained workforce was needed to help the elderly.

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