Symbion carve-up continues

The dismantling of Symbion’s corporate empire continues. After Dr Ed Bateman’s Primary Health Care carved away Symbion’s medical centres, including 20 or so in WA, Asian-based distribution giant Zuellig Group has won the bid for Symbion Pharmacy Services (which consists of Terry White Chemists and Chemmart). Zuellig paid $505m and have snavelled 30% of the Australian pharmaceutical wholesaling market.

Moodie acquitted

Former South West Area Health Service chief executive Michael Moodie has had a rough trot in the last few years, but he has been somewhat vindicated by his recent acquittal on 100 charges of wrongfully claiming expenses, despite a finding that he acted dishonestly. Moodie had pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of forgery and 50 counts of uttering related to the accommodation expenses he claimed from the Health Department while staying at apartments he rented in East Perth and Maylands. Magistrate Robert Black found that Mr Moodie had acted dishonestly in making the claims, but he said the Director of Public Prosecutions had failed to “establish that the accused was not entitled to the amounts that he claimed and received as the result of his dishonest conduct.” Moodie said the legal action had cost him more than $1m “and an unbelievable toll in personal and psychological costs.”

JMOs at risk

AMA (WA) surveyed around 300 junior doctors working at five metro hospitals and found many are working dangerously long hours, which wouldn’t come as a surprise to many. The results, published last month, showed, “Many doctors are working 15-hour shifts for three or four nights in a row – and then driving home exhausted in the early hours of the morning,” according to Dr Ruth Blackham, chair of AMA (WA)’s Doctors in Training Committee. She said the problem was made worse because the hospitals did not encourage doctors to use free taxi vouchers when they had to travel home exhausted, and many JMOs were not even aware the option existed. Other problems raised by the survey included¬† the unrealistic combination of rostered hours with a significant amount of on-call and call back, difficulty understanding their payslips (raised by 77% of JMOs), and tardiness in hospitals confirming annual leave.

Peril in the practice

With violence in the practice escalating, RACGP WA and the Australian Association of Practice Managers are collaborating on an upcoming one-day conference, Peril in the Practice, which will deal with the topical issue of violence and aggression in general practice. Taking place on November 14 at The Boulevard Centre, Floreat, the conference features keynote speaker A/Prof Leanne Rowe, past president of RACGP and vociferous campaigner for a safe working environment in the health professions. Conference topics will include HR issues, item numbers, CPR, and self defence.

Drug rep-etition

Quantifying what every doctor suspected, Choice has conducted a survey that found medicos are being bombarded with drug promotions. Around a third of the 180 GPs surveyed said they were receiving visits from 10 or more pharmaceutical company reps a month. 62% of GPs said they received 10 or more promotional mail-outs about drugs every week. Conversely, two thirds of polled medicos had never had a visit from government-funded National Prescribing Services medical educators. Choice, which has been pushing an anti-pharmaceutical company barrow for some time, said the findings were “concerning” and indicated the strong influence drug companies were exercising over the people who could recommend their medications.