Welcome to this week's edition of Health Alert. The Health Alert is transmitted on Monday of each week (unless there is a public holiday on Monday).
Health Alert is a summary of the critical judgments, legislation, press releases and news items which have come to our attention each week. Many of the summaries will contain a hyperlink.
If an item is of special interest, we may insert commentary into the body of Health Alert. However in general, Health Alert is a quick and effective means of ensuring that you are aware of significant recent changes with little or no commentary from us.
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The DLA Phillips Fox Health Team
New South Wales. Medical Tribunal
15/02/2011: Vastrad, Basavaraj
This New South Wales Medical Tribunal decision concerned two allegations of inappropriate conduct by the Health Care Complaints Commission against a medical practitioner.
The Tribunal found the doctor guilty of failing to request that a patient get dressed following a consultation and of placing his hands on the chest of the patient, who was still in her underwear, instructing the patient to push her forehead against his and to place her hand on his chest. The tribunal also noted, with disapproval, that the patient was a receptionist at the practitioner's medical practice.
The Tribunal was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that the practitioner's conduct amounted to "unsatisfactory professional conduct" (but not "professional misconduct") within the meaning of that expression in s 36 of the Medical Practice Act 1992.
The Tribunal reprimanded the practitioner and imposed conditions on his registration, including that he undertake certain courses, and report back to the New South Wales Medical Council.
Applebee v Alsaffar  TASSC 1
This Tasmanian Supreme Court ruling concerned the boundaries of what constitutes a discoverable document in a medical negligence context. The case concerned a gall bladder removal surgery, during which the first defendant, a surgeon, inadvertently damaged the plaintiff's common bile duct. The plaintiff sought to compel the disclosure of records relating to other operations by the surgeon in which patients' common bile ducts were similarly damaged.
The Tasmanian Supreme Court reiterated the test that documents that relate to any matter in question in the proceeding and that are in the defendant's possession are discoverable.
The Court held that evidence of the surgeon's tendency to proceed with total gall bladder removal operations when unable to view the common bile duct, thereby risking the damage of ductal structures, was relevant to the claim. Such evidence could prove that, at the time of the plaintiff's operation, the surgeon ought to have known that it was unsafe to proceed in such circumstances. The court also noted that the plaintiff had made this exact allegation in the statement of claim. The evidence was duly held to be admissible.
Victoria. Coroners Court of Victoria
191309 John William Brown (PDF 433KB) - death, in, care, Werribee
New Zealand. Health & Disability Commissioner
National Health (Listing of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment Instrument 2011 (No. 3)(No. PB 14 of 2011) - F2011L00302 " PB 14 of 2011 as made
National Health (Price and Special Patient Contribution) Amendment Determination 2011 (No. 2) (PB No. 15 of 2011) - F2011L00298 " PB 15 of 2011 as made
Australian Capital Territory
Health Amendment Bill 2011 - Legislative Assembly 17/2/2011 Introduced and 1st reading
Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Regulations 2011 - Made: 22/2/2011
Australia. Department of Health & Ageing
25 February 2011- Patients Benefit from New Medicines Listed on the PBS and NIP-Australians suffering from serious and life-threatening illnesses will benefit from seven new medicines being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 April 2011. Two new vaccines will also be added to the National Immunisation Program
24 February 2011- Minister Snowdon Opens Indigenous Research Forum-The Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, has opened a two day forum that is a first step in establishing a network of experienced and emerging Indigenous researchers.
23 February 2011- Ambassadors Promote the Gift of Life-Four prominent Australians have been appointed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King as DonateLife Ambassadors.
22 February 2011- $12 Million Extra Funding for Aged Care Services in South Australia-Older South Australians who live in their own homes will benefit this year from a $12 million boost to aged care services provided to them across the state through the Home and Community Care (HACC) program.
22 February 2011- Next Steps to Establish Medicare Locals-The Australian Government has released new guidelines for Medicare Locals to help health practitioners provide more responsive and targeted services for local communities.
21 February 2011- Nine-Year High in Private Health Insurance-Australia has reached its highest rate of private hospital insurance participation in more than nine years, with 44.9 per cent of the population covered.
21 February 2011- Protecting Bubs: Whooping Cough Epidemic-As the current whooping cough epidemic continues, Health and Ageing Minister Nicola Roxon has reminded parents to protect their children with vaccinations, which can begin six weeks after birth.
2011 Private Health Insurance Premium Increases - The Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon has approved private health insurance premium increases to 34 out of 35 health funds by an average of 5.57 per cent which will take effect from 1 April 2011.
Australia. Therapeutic Goods Administration
Australian Public Assessment Report (AusPAR) for prescription medicines (updated) - Gardasil
Australia. Private Health Insurance Ombudsman
21 February 2011 - PHIO Seminar 2011 - READ MORE
Australian Institute of Health & Welfare
Public health expenditure in Australia, 2008-09 - Since the first public health expenditure report in 1999-00, expenditure on public health activities by health departments has grown, in real terms, by 88%. Total expenditure on public health activities ... Published 25 February 2011.
Comparing an SLK-based and a name-based data linkage strategy: an investigation into the PIAC linkage - In 2005, the Institute was funded to create a linked aged care database to enable analysis of pathways through aged care services. The linkage strategy for the project involved using ... Published 23 February 2011.
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
Australian Capital Territory. Department of Health
Health Minister joins DonateLife Walk Katy Gallagher, MLA February 23 2011
Minister reminds 'at risk' Canberran's to immunise Katy Gallagher, MLA February 18 2011
New South Wales. Department of Health
Measles vaccination reminder [24 February 2011]
Health warning to avoid Mosquitoes [23 February 2011]
Northern Territory. Department of Health & Families
Queensland. Department of Health
South Australia. Department of Health
More services and less travel for Riverland patients - Thursday, 24 February 2011 - Renal dialysis facilities for Riverland patients are set to double as part of the State Government's $41 million development of the Riverland Regional Hospital at Berri. Read more...
Rail relocation clearing decks for new RAH - Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - Premier Mike Rann has hailed the successful move of Adelaide's rail operations to Dry Creek, clearing the way for work to start on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. - Read more...
Tasmania. Department of Health & Human Services
Victoria. Department of Health
Country hospital boards to be protected - Thursday 24 February 2011 - Victorian country hospital boards will be protected from the risk of forced amalgamation under the new, enhanced Council of Australian Governments Agreement negotiated by Premier Ted Bailleu, Minister for Health David Davis said today.
Breastmilk bank opens at Mercy for Women's - Tuesday 22 February 2011 - Health Minister David Davis today officially opened the first Breastmilk Bank at Melbourne's Mercy Hospital for Women.
22 February 2011 Health warning on mosquitoes
Victoria gives health reform green light - 18 February 2011 - On Sunday 13 February 2011, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a revised health reform package.
Parents of newborns offered free whooping cough vaccine - 18 February 2011 - Parents of newborn babies are being encouraged to protect their babies by protecting themselves with a free vaccine against whooping cough.
Western Australia. Department of Health
21 Feb 2011 - DonateLife Week 20 – 27 February 2011
25 Feb 2011Morton Call for new members to the Mental Health Review Board
24 Feb 2011Morton Ministers responsible for drug and alcohol issues to meet in Perth
23 Feb 2011Hames Big funding boost for medical research in WA
22 Feb 2011Hames West Australians encouraged to decide on organ donation
New Zealand. Ministry of Health
24 February 2011: BestPractice (http://bestpractice.bmj.com) - In light of the tragic events that have unfolded in Christchurch, the BMJ has opened access to its clinical decision support tool.
New Zealand. Pharmac
Clarification of Emergency Supply and Co-Payment Temporary Changes (1 page, 14 KB) - 2011/02/25
United Kingdom. Department of Health
United States of America. Department of Health & Human Services
Statement from the Department of Health and Human Services on the Regulation for the Enforcement of Federal Health Care Conscience Protections - The administration strongly supports provider conscience laws that protect and support the rights of health care providers, and also recognizes and supports the rights of patients. Strong conscience laws make it clear that health care providers cannot be compelled to perform or assist in an abortion. Many of these strong conscience laws have been in existence for more than 30 years. The rule being issued today builds on these laws by providing a clear enforcement process.
World Health Organization
21 February 2011 - Antimicrobial resistance is becoming more dangerous - for example multidrug-resistant tuberculosis causes at least 150 000 deaths annually. A new fact sheet provides examples of what can be done to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. In the run up to World Health Day, the fact sheet highlights the importance of countries taking action today to protect the medicines of tomorrow. Antimicrobial resistance fact sheet
Reducing harmful alcohol use - 11 February 2011 - Harmful use of alcohol results in the death of 2.5 million people annually. The newly published Global status report on alcohol and health analyses alcohol consumption in over 100 individual country profiles. This evidence should allow countries to create policies to save lives and reduce the health impact of harmful alcohol drinking.
Australian Medical Association
AMA Response to Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists on Accreditation Standards for Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine 24 February 2011 - 12:00pm - The AMA responded to an invitation from the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists to comment on the development of practice, registration and accreditation standards for naturopathy and western herbal medicine in Australia. The AMA advised that it could not provide comments until the proposals had legal standing and a board for naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners is established under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009. Read more
AMA Submission to the Optometry Board of Australia on the proposal for therapeutic qualification to be included as a requirement for general registration 24 February 2011 - 9:00am - The AMA has made a submission to the Optometry Board of Australia in response to a proposal that all optometrists applying for general registration should be required to meet additional therapeutics qualifications. The AMA's view is that registration standards for all prescribers should be equal to those required for the medical profession. - Read more
Medicare Locals: Guideline number one - GPs must remain the coordinators of care 22 February 2011 - 2:49pm - AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that Medicare Locals could enhance primary care and benefit patients if they are established according to the core guideline that GPs must remain the coordinators of patient care. "Medicare Locals will only work to improve primary care if their main purpose is to support the central role of GPs in caring for patients," Dr Pesce said. "This means that GPs must be the coordinators of patient care, they must be strongly represented on the Medicare Local Boards, and there must be an absolute minimum of bureaucracy and red tape." Read more
Every organ donor counts - you can do it 21 February 2011 - 9:00am - The AMA is urging Australians during DonateLife Week to seriously consider becoming organ or tissue donors to help improve the health of others and to save lives. AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that no one should assume that they cannot become an organ or tissue donor because of their age, previous medical history, chronic illness or other condition. Read more
Improving the journey for patients is the key to e-health 20 February 2011 - 12:00pm - MJA release: The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) can improve health service delivery for patients and clinicians as well as increase the efficiency of health services, according to a supplement in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. Read more
Bowel cancer screening program is a bargain and will save lives 20 February 2011 - 12:00pm - MJA release: The introduction of a biennial bowel cancer screening program for Australians aged 50-74 years will prevent between 300 and 500 deaths a year, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. - Read more
Study advocates use of low-cost diabetes screening test for hospitalised patients 20 February 2011 - 12:00pm - MJA release: Testing glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels using blood samples taken from all adult patients admitted to hospital is a simple and inexpensive method to screen hospitalised patients for diabetes, according to research published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. Read more
Socioeconomically disadvantaged women less likely to use Medicare Access Initiative for mental health 20 February 2011 - 12:00pm - MJA release: Women who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are less likely to access Medicare Benefits Schedule items for recently introduced mental health services, despite their mental condition, according to a study in the Medical Journal of Australia. Read more
Energy drinks may provoke psychotic relapse in patients with schizophrenia 20 February 2011 - 12:00pm - MJA release: Consuming energy drinks may lead to psychotic relapse in some patients with treated schizophrenia, an expert says. In a letter published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, Prof David Menkes, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Auckland, describes the case of a 27-year-old New Zealand Maori man with diagnosed schizophrenia. Read more
Notice Of Annual General Meeting - 2011 18 February 2011 - 7:00pm - Australian Medical Association Limited, ACN 008 426 793, ABN 37 008 426 793, NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING - Notice is hereby given that the Fiftieth Annual General Meeting of members of the Australian Medical Association Limited will be held at 4.15pm on Friday 27 May 2011 in the Grand Ballroom, Hilton Brisbane, 190 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane QLD. Business *To receive the Minutes of the Forty-Ninth Annual General Meeting held in Sydney, New South Wales on Friday 28 May 2010. *To receive and consider the Annual Report of the Australian Medical Association Limited for the year 2010. *To receive the audited Financial Reports for the Australian Medical Association Limited and its controlled entities for the year ended 31 December 2010. *To appoint auditors for the Australian Medical Association Limited and its controlled entities. *To transact any other business which may properly be transacted by an Annual General Meeting.
Election of Executive Officers 18 February 2011 - 7:00pm - ELECTION OF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS Call for nominations
British Medical Association
Patient confidentiality could be under threat from health reforms, warns BMA Doctors' leaders today (Thursday, 24th February 2011) warned ministers that flaws in the government's Health and Social Care Bill could threaten the confidentiality of patient records. (Thu 24 Feb 2011)
BMA comment on TUC figures on NHS job cuts The TUC says today that there are over 50,000 planned or potential NHS staff cuts across the UK. (Wed 23 Feb 2011)
American Medical Association
AMA to FDA: Genetic Testing Should Be Conducted by Qualified Health Professionals - AMA Press Release, Feb. 23, 2011 - In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the AMA today called for genetic testing to be conducted under the guidance of a physician, genetic counsellor, or other genetics specialist. - Read the AMA Press Release
AMA Expresses Sympathy to People in New Zealand after Earthquake - AMA Statement, Feb. 23, 2011 - "On behalf of the physicians of the American Medical Association (AMA), I would like to express our deepest sympathy to the people in New Zealand suffering from the effects of Tuesday's earthquake." - Read the AMA Statement
How to save Australia's declining clinical trials - 18 February 2011 - Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw today set out four key policy priorities to arrest the decline in the number of clinical trials conducted in Australia. more>
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