Profession rallies to help flood victims
THE RACGP and AMA have mustered their resources to provide support for flood-affected doctors in Queensland and other states. AMA Vice-President Dr Steve Hambleton (pictured left) has fronted the media several times to explain some of the health problems people in flood areas will encounter. (Photo courtesy of Dr Hambleton)
The RACGP has established a Policy and Practice Support Unit to offer advice, support and further information. It estimates almost 1000 RACGP members either live or work in a Queensland postcode that has been flood affected and many more members are flood affected in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The RACGP helpline is 03 8699 0596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information is also available at www.racgp.org.au/disasterresources.
AMA Queensland has been overwhelmed with offers from members wanting to assist and support colleagues affected by the floods. It has established a Flood Medical Response Team, which is working closely with Queensland Health to coordinate assistance. President-elect Dr Richard Kidd said the Team consists of local doctors getting together to help each other, flood victims and their communities. “Those family doctors who are able to keep their practices open to assist flood victims with urgent medical needs are being identified and other doctors and nurses may be able to assist them,” Dr Kidd said. Doctors who can help should email email@example.com to register their details.
Floods bring major health threats
FLOOD-affected Queenslanders face a range of waterborne diseases and lengthy elective surgery delays as floodwaters recede, The Australian reports. AMA vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton warned of serious health risks to come, including mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus, dengue fever, Murray Valley encephalitis and Barmah Forest virus. Rat-carried bacterial infections such as leptospirosis were also a risk, while melioidosis — an infectious disease usually found in the tropical Northern Territory — could make its way south. Dr Hambleton warned there could be elective surgery delays of up to 6 months in parts of Queensland as doctors focused on more immediate health concerns.
Pertussis numbers double
AUSTRALIA has recorded the highest number of whooping cough cases in almost two decades, ABC News reports. Last year, nearly 34 000 Australians had pertussis, more than double the number in 2008 and the most since records began in 1991. Experts say the rise is due to the cyclical nature of the illness, better and increased testing for the disease and possible changes to the strain.
Drug combo best for hypertension
A NEW study suggests a combination of drugs is better than a single one in treating high blood pressure, BBC News reports. The research, published in the Lancet, found starting treatment with aliskiren and amlodipine gave better and faster results with fewer side effects than single use of the drugs. The approach challenges conventional medical practice of giving one drug, then adding another later if blood pressure stays high. Patients given the combination of drugs had a 25% better response during the first 6 months compared with those on conventional treatment, the study found. Aliskiren, a renin inhibitor, is not marketed in Australia.
Cancer screening program lapses
THE lapse of a bowel cancer screening program will cost lives, Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver has warned, The Age reports. Funding for the program, under which people aged 50, 55 and 65 were mailed a testing kit, expired on 31 December. “There is no doubt that, with the lapse of the bowel screening program, people will die of bowel cancer whose lives could have been saved by a screening program that detected early cancers or pre-cancerous polyps,” Professor Olver said. A spokesman for the Health Minister said the government would consider future funding for the program in the 2011 Budget.
Interns need more formal training
AMA NSW wants public hospitals to set aside 20% of time in medical graduates’ internship year to allow them to take part in formal training programs, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The demand, which would severely strain a public hospital system heavily reliant on junior doctors to staff unpopular shifts, is among a series of claims in relation to medical training that the association is putting to both political parties before the March state election.
Call for input on e-health records
AUSTRALIANS will have a chance to shape the nation’s $467 million electronic health record system, The Australian reports. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has agreed to release confidential plans on the operating concepts for the personally controlled e-health record as a discussion paper for public consultation “soon”. The government’s “personally controlled” approach to a nationwide system for sharing patients’ medical records has caused much confusion since it was announced a year ago.
New disease screening test
A NEW genetic test could soon allow couples to be screened for hundreds of recessive childhood diseases to help prevent passing them on to their offspring, The Age reports. American researchers reported in Science Translational Medicine that the new test was capable of detecting 448 inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis, fragile X-syndrome and sickle-cell anaemia.
Prison needle program supported
ACADEMICS, health experts and former politicians have lent their support to the trial of a needle and syringe program in Australian correctional facilities, ABC News reports. The list of names features in a newspaper advertisement paid for by the independent, non-profit drug policy group Anex, to coincide with a debate about introducing a needle program in Canberra’s Alexander Maconochie Centre. Anex chief executive John Ryan says until authorities can eliminate drugs from prisons, they have a duty of care to minimise the spread of blood-borne diseases within these facilities.
IN a super-sized world, it was perhaps inevitable: Boston’s Emergency Medical Services this month will begin deploying an ambulance equipped with a hydraulic lift to ease transport of the heaviest patients, the Boston Globe reports. The ambulance retrofitting, which cost about US$12,000, bears testament to the increase in morbidly obese patients and the wrenched backs and necks sustained by emergency medical technicians and paramedics straining to lift them. Most weeks, Boston rescue crews ferry 2-4 patients weighing at least 450 pounds (204 kilograms).
Posted 17 January 2011