Archive for the ‘GP News’ Category


Hospital apology to war veteran

War veteran waits 17 hours for treatment

Long wait at hospital for treatment (ABC News)

Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital has apologised for letting a blind war veteran wait almost a day for a bed.

80-year-old Edward Webster waited more than 17 hours at the hospital
overnight despite having a letter from his doctor saying he needed
urgent treatment.

His wife Helen says the war veteran was left sitting in a wheelchair
until he was transferred to Hollywood Hospital this morning.

The Executive Director of Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital Amanda Ling has apologised.

“I am sorry this patient’s been so distressed and we offered our apologies,” she said.

” I will do everything I can to ensure that we handle things as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has renewed calls for more
funding and extra hospital rooms in light of the incident.

AMA spokesman for Emergency Medicine David Mountain says cases like this occur too regularly in Perth hospitals.

“I’d like to say it’s a one off but in fact I think it’s standard
for many nights in our emergency departments that people can’t get seen
at appropriate times,” he said.

Dr Mountain says a combination of more funding and greater capacity would improve the situation.

“It’s not as simple as more funding, but it’s certainly as simple as creating more capacity.

“Any system that runs like this on a routine basis is clearly severly under capacity.”

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‘Millions more needed’ to stave off dementia crisis

A leading scientific researcher says Australia needs to increase funding for dementia now in order to avoid a health care crisis in the future.

A report released today says annual funding for research should be increased to $36 million a year to tackle the growing dementia epidemic.

It also recommends that dementia be included as a national health priority.

Report co-author Professor Henry Brodaty says there are more than 200,000 people with dementia at the moment, but the number could be 730,000 by 2050.

“Australia is ageing, the aged are ageing, so the old are getting older, so we really have to think about the best way to tackle this,” he said.

“For every dollar spent in research, the Australian Society for Medical Research estimated we get a $5 return.

“It makes sense to try to understand how to tackle this better.

“If you compare research for dementia compared to other chronic conditions, it’s well below those,” Professor Brodaty added.

“If we compare it on the disability-adjusted life years which is a measure of disease burden, we have only a fraction of what’s being funded in other conditions.”

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Dementia forcing older Aussies in care for longer: study

The report shows 70 per cent of permanent aged care residents needed a high level of care.

The report shows 70 per cent of permanent aged care residents needed a high level of care.

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A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has found older people are spending longer in aged care facilities and need a higher level of attention, partly because so many of them have dementia.

The report shows 70 per cent of permanent aged care residents needed high-level care last financial year, compared with 58 per cent a decade ago.

Institute spokeswoman Ann Puet says more residents have dementia which means many require care for longer.

“On average people stay for 146 weeks now, whereas 10 years [ago], it was 131 weeks,” she said.

She says there has also been a rise in the number of people aged 90 and over who are being admitted to residential care.

“We are seeing an increasing proportion within the residential aged care sector of very old people, simply because of female longevity,” she said.

“That population its still dominated by women, although as men live longer we may see some change in that.”

Council on the Ageing spokesman Paul Flint says the findings reflect Australia’s ageing population.

“It’s the 80-plus age groups that are increasing at the fastest rate at the moment,” he said.

The report also reveals more high care places were allocated to meet increasing demand.

Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Martin Laverty says the Government needs to step in.

“I had as recently as last week a senior Labor backbencher acknowledge to me that they were not aware of the pressure on aged care providers in their own electorate,” he said.

“A very genuine question was asked – what can we do as a government to help? Well it can assist with the pressure, relieving the pressure on capital works.”

The Aged Care Industry Council represents 95 per cent of the church, charitable and privately-owned and operated nursing homes in the country.

Spokesman Rod Young says the Government will have to face up to the extra costs associated with an ageing population.

“We’ve actually just started a new funding scheme which has changed the parameters and changed the funding methodology, he said.

“The Government claims that that will fix many of our problems. We don’t believe it will, but only the next couple of years is going to tell.”

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Govt pledges $50m to mental health

The Federal Government has announced a $50 million funding boost for mental health services.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says $20 million will go to suicide prevention programs.

Ms Roxon has also unveiled the make-up of a new national advisory group on mental health, to be led by former head of the Mental Health Council, John Mendoza.

Ms Roxon says the new council fulfils an election commitment.

“The advisory council is a mechanism to provide the Government with independent, balanced and confidential advice from a wide range of experts to inform national mental health reform efforts, and provide continuing impetus for reform,” she said.

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‘Higher death risk’ in sleep apnoea sufferers

A new Australian study shows patients with moderate to severe sleep apnoea are at greater risk of dying than people without the condition.

A study of 400 patients found a sixfold increase in mortality in patients with the breathing disorder.

Professor Ron Grunstein from the Woolcock Institute says patients with sleep apnoea often have other health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

He says when those factors were taken into account, patients with sleep apnoea still had a higher chance of dying.

The findings have been presented at an international sleep conference in the United States.

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Nurses ask for greater role in primary health

A nurse clasps the hand of a patient in a hospital.

A nurse clasps the hand of a patient in a hospital. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

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The Australian Nursing Federation has called for a complete overhaul of how primary health services are funded and delivered.

The federation has told the Federal Government’s Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, nurses in GP clinics need greater powers to treat patients.

The federation’s secretary Ged Kearney says nurses are under-utilised and could play a greater role in primary health.

“We do know that there are a lot more nurses working out in primary healthcare at the moment who can provide very good safe and efficient healthcare, but there’s some very large barriers stopping them from doing so.”

She says it would also make sense to change Medicare rules so that patients of all health professionals get subsidies.

“I think it would have enormous benefits,” she said.

“It seems to us that access is one of the major problems.

“People just can’t get into their GP, they can’t get in to see doctors at the moment, so let’s use the rest of the health workforce we know can do it safely and efficiently.”

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HRT ‘may still be worth risk’

Women are being warned they should not necessarily stop taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), despite a new study linking a decrease in the use of HRT to a fall in breast cancer rates.

The drop of about seven per cent in the incidence of breast cancer amongst Australian women over 50 corresponds with a 40 per cent fall in the number of women using HRT.

But Dr Helen Zorbas from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre says HRT may still be worth the risk for many women.

“For short term use, it still remains an effective means of controlling the symptoms of menopause if these symptoms are very severe,” she said.

“For many women those symptoms really affect quality of life in a very severe way.”

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Anti-retroviral treatment not keeping pace with new infection: UN report

A report from the United Nations says more HIV-positive people are getting anti-retroviral treatment, but the supply of the drugs is not keeping pace with the rate of new infections.

The idea of getting anti-viral drugs to 3 million people by the end of 2005 failed.

However the report says this initiative, which became known as ‘three by five’, did jump start the push for treatment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the AIDS epidemic is most severe.

Reductions in the price of key drugs have helped the expansion, though experts warn that the increasingly common combination of HIV with tuberculosis and particularly drug resistant strains represents a critical threat.

The director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV-AIDS program, Doctor Kevin De Cock, says while 1 million new patients get treatment each year, 2.5 million are infected with the virus.

He says there is still a lot of work to be done to prevent infections.

“I think remarkable things have been achieved … this is a very complicated infection,” he said

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Gene gun, patches ‘to replace vaccine needles’

A University of Queensland professor says ‘gene guns’ and abrasive patches could soon replace needles as the preferred method of delivering vaccines.

Professor Mark Kendall won the annual Amgen Medical Research Award in Melbourne for developing the new technology.

He says needles do not work for all vaccinations and other methods, like the abrasive patch, are better.

“To the naked eye it just looks like any other patch but if you look at it very, very closely under a microscope you’ll see that it has thousands of little tiny projections that break the outer layer of the skin and put the vaccine to where it needs to go,” he said.

“We’ve already shown that that works considerably better than any other approach.”

Professor Kendall says he also developed a gene gun because using needles for diseases such as pandemic influenza vaccines is clumsy.

“It’s a hand-held rocket nozzle. We fire very, very small DNA-coated microparticles into the skin at about 1,500 miles per hour.

“I know that might sound a little bit out there but it’s actually a practical delivery device.

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Youth suicide dropping, but self harm on the rise

A young woman rests her head in her hands in a depressed pose

Experts say depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in self harm. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

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Australia has managed to reduce the number of teenage suicides but the latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare show there is a new problem that needs to be tackled, self harm.

In the past decade there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people who intentionally hurt themselves, with more than 7,000 taken to hospital in one year.

Youth suicide has long been recognised as a real and significant issue in Australian society.

But Professor George Patton from the Centre for Adolescent Health says more commonly, deep emotional pain can manifest itself as self harm.

“The act is not necessarily about killing yourself and for most young people self harm is not about killing yourself, it’s a way of dealing with emotions that you’re finding difficult,” he said.

“They may be emotions of feeling anxious, feeling angry, feeling unhappy, a mixture of all of the above.”

The latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare, released this morning, reveal the rate of self harm is rising dramatically.

In the decade from 1996 to 2006, the rate of hospitalisations from self-harm went up by 43 per cent among young people.

For young women, the increase was even higher at 51 per cent.

The institute’s Deanna Eldridge says that equates to 7,300 young people in the most recent statistical year.

“Overall it only accounts for about 2 per cent of all hospitalisations of young people, but in terms of injury it’s about the sixth leading cause of hospitalisation.

The Institute’s figures show about 80 per cent of the hospitalisations for self-harm were for deliberate poisoning.

Professor Patton says that is a reflection of the most serious cases but it is really only the tip of the iceberg and most cases of self-harm do not need immediate medical attention.

“The commonest type of self harm the young people report is deliberately cutting themselves,” he said.

“Self poisoning is the next most common and then things like deliberate risk taking, beating up on yourself or self battery – they’re less common again.”

Self harm is most common during puberty and reaches a peak at an average age of 15.

It is a problem all around the world and the rise of cases in Australia fits with similar trends in other Western countries.

Professor Patten says there is a growing feeling that the rise in self harm is actually a reflection of the growth of individualism and loss of connections.

“They are really important for young people as they’re growing up and so kids are growing up feeling that they actually need to deal with their problems themselves,” he said.

Youth depression groups, like Reach Out! have helped make progress in bringing down the suicide rate but spokesman Jonathan Nicholas thinks the figures show there is still a lot of work to do.

“We’ve made some good inroads into suicide but the journey is far from over and it says that we’ve actually got to do more in intervening early with young people and getting them to the supports they need and making sure that they are not reaching the point where they want to die,” he said.

Adapted from an AM report by youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle.

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