Nurse clinic increases workload
A STUDY has found Australia’s first nurse-led walk-in clinic increased rather than decreased the workload of the emergency department at the Canberra Hospital, ABC News reports. Professor Drew Richardson, from the Australian National University Medical School, told the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine conference that patients attending the emergency department increased by 10% after the centre opened in May. Professor Richardson says the idea of associating walk-in centres with hospitals needs to be reviewed.

Australia tops in health costs
AUSTRALIA’S medical and hospital costs tend to be high, often eclipsed only by fees in the hyper-costly US health system, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Hip replacements cost about $US20 000 in Australia, twice that in Britain and Canada when expressed in US dollars, says a survey of Western countries’ costs by the International Federation of Health Plans. The global comparison of the costs of medical and hospital procedures shows charges in Australia were second or third highest after the US in 11 out of 20 categories, which included hospital and surgical costs, drug costs and scanning fees.

Modest start for e-health
THE federal government’s much-vaunted $467 million personally controlled e-health record, due by July 2012, will initially be a modest patient health summary drawn from existing data sources, The Australian reports. Healthcare organisations have been invited to apply for grant funding worth $55 million to become lead sites for the nation’s e-health roll-out. Applicants are invited to “provide the capability to produce nationally consistent patient health summaries from compliant information sources” for patients who choose to participate. But a fully developed e-health record is still some way off.

Radical health reforms urged
BIG business is planning to step up pressure on the federal government for a radical rethink of health reforms, arguing for more competition to boost patient services and, it is claimed, save billions of dollars in inefficient health spending, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. At a forum presented by the Business Council of Australia in Sydney, speakers voiced disappointment with the limited scope of the Rudd–Gillard reforms and the failure to put more focus on tailored care for patients to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

Hospital safety falls short
THE first large study in a decade to analyse harm from medical care and to track it over time has found that efforts to make US hospitals safer for patients are falling short, the New York Times reports. The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted from 2002 to 2007 in 10 North Carolina hospitals. It found about 18% of patients were harmed by medical care, some more than once, and 63.1% of the injuries were judged to be preventable. It is one of the most rigorous efforts to collect data about patient safety since a landmark report in 1999 found that medical mistakes caused as many as 98 000 deaths and more than one million injuries a year in the US.

Bowel screening promise
BOWEL cancer screening would be stepped up dramatically under plans being considered by Health Minister Nicola Roxon, The Age reports. After the government failed to guarantee extending the present limited bowel cancer screening program it came under fire from experts. Ms Roxon has now raised the prospect of more than doubling the scope of the program, which is due to end early next year. She said the government had received advice that ”the absolute rolled-gold clinical standard would be to commence screening at 50 and to do that every 2 years thereafter”.

New party drugs overwhelm researchers
AS addicts and party-goers pop pills containing new cocktails of chemicals, Western Australian doctors and drug researchers are struggling to keep up with the possible side effects, WA Today reports. It takes time for researchers to firstly identify new chemically enhanced drugs like 4-methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone), more widely known as “Meow Meow”, and then observe the long-term health impact. But National Drug Research Institute director Steve Allsop said the immediate side effects were likely to be similar to those associated with amphetamines.

Stale blood concerns
SCIENTISTS have found that Australian patients may be at risk of developing blood infections as a result of being given transfusions of stale blood, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The research is expected to have a major impact on the way blood donations are handled. Researchers have recommended an immediate ban on all blood products older than 35 days to the NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, after a 10-year Hunter New England Health study of more than 20 000 blood transfusions.

GP helpline seeks provider
THE federally funded National Health Call Centre Network is seeking a service provider for its telephone-based after-hours GP helpline, The Australian reports. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised the $400 million helpline and threw in another $50m for videoconferencing facilities, so it could also offer online medical services. Discussions with the medical profession, consumers and industry over the shape of Medicare Locals are continuing.

HIV prophylaxis
HEALTHY gay men who took an antiretroviral drug every day were well protected against contracting HIV, in a study suggesting that a new weapon against the epidemic has emerged, the New York Times reports. In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that men taking a combination of two oral antiretroviral drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, were 44% less likely to get infected with the virus that causes AIDS than an equal number taking a placebo.

Posted 29 November 2010

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