GP Medicare offices

Plans are afoot to revamp the local Medicare office. Commonwealth Human Services Minister Joe Hockey is keen to push Medicare claims billing from doctors’ surgeries – get patients to claim Medicare rebates by swiping their cards with a similar plan to do PBS billing through pharmacies. The Financial Review suggests the HIC will be renamed Medicare Australia and newly renamed branches would take on some of the roles currently performed by CentreLink. The federal AMA responded cautiously to the changes and said unless doctors’ surgeries could use the service to do eftpos transactions with patients and receive Medicare payments direct into their accounts, HIC online uptake would remain dismal. Meanwhile the Pharmacy Guild fresh from signing another highly protective 5-year agreement warmly welcomed the move. Interesting times lie ahead.

Trauma role RPH push

RPH has been touting a 21.6% increase in major trauma admissions over the past year as backing for the proposed centralising of trauma services there. Admissions rose by 9.5%, from 276 to 302 trauma admissions per month. Dedicated trauma beds will open early in 2006 and a new trauma team (doctors, nurses and therapists) will co-ordinate care for multi-trauma patients. Later in 2006, a new 30 bed trauma ward will be built in the North Block. RPH has kept a trauma registry since 1994 – causes of injury, treatment and outcomes. Last year, 48 % of major trauma resulted from road crashes (75% male) but the largest trauma cases are in fact accidents in the home (falls 40%).

Error police for GPs

The RACGP, funded by the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), will run some projects designed to improve patient safety in general practice. It had to come, with scrutiny around the 22 estimated preventable deaths per day in Oz hospitals, general practice no doubt has its share. Projects include two educational modules: identifying, preventing and managing medical error, with a focus on ‘near misses’; and working safely using teamwork, leadership, and ‘human factors’ such as fatigue and stress. They will revise the infection control guide, promote 10 tips for safer health care (adapted for general practice), adapt and promote the correct patient, site, procedure protocol, and develop education and support for general practices to learn skills used in discussing adverse events with patients.

Mount to Healthscope

Healthscope Limited will acquire 14 hospitals from Ramsay Health Care Ltd for $490m following ACCC deliberations over hospital monopolies arising from Ramsay’s takeover of Affinity hospitals in April. This means 8 hospitals in Victoria, 4 in New South Wales and one each in WA and Qld (with EBITDA of $57.6 during last financial year). The 205 bed Mount Hospital (WA) will move to Healthscope, giving the company its first foothold in WA outside its earlier purchase of Gribbles pathology interests in WA (General Path Labs). Western Diagnostics, which provides The Mount’s pathology services at present, will no doubt be reviewing its position. Healthscope will carry $303m additional core bank debt beyond the expected $120m from a capital share issue. In its end-of-year report, hospital operator Ramsay Health Care reported a net profit increase of 27% to $54m, with a total revenue increase of 88% to $1.4billion. The company indicated it expected further revenue and earnings growth from its purchase of the Affinity hospitals.

Silver solution

IBA Health Limited (ASX: IBA) has acquired the intellectual property in residential and community care software ComCare, developed by the Silver Chain Nursing Association. Purchase price was $3.25m and IBA will pay Silver Chain additional royalties on licence fees based on minimum royalty targets being reached. ComCare is integrated software designed to manage all aspect of the day-to-day business of residential and community health care organisations. This strengthens IBA’s push into primary care, particularly areas involving the hospital interface that IBA has strong experience in – government contracts are in its sights as HealthConnect comes into play. $152m has been paid to aged care providers to assist them to take advantage of new technology and to improve their business practices.

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