Reforms face axe
THE federal government is expected to drop its bid for states to hand over a slice of GST revenue for health reform, The Age reports. The retreat would mean the government would not undertake to fund 60% of hospital costs – but would continue to seek reforms to the health system in return for more modest financial incentives to the states. The health changes are being negotiated with the states before the 14 February meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

AHPRA under review
FEDERAL Health Minister Nicola Roxon has demanded urgent advice on ways to manage Australia’s new trouble-plagued Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), according to The Age. Ms Roxon said she was concerned about rising complaints against AHPRA, which took over the registration and accreditation of 10 health professions last year. The action follows a litany of reports that AHPRA had botched the task of registering thousands of health workers across the country, causing problems for hospitals and professionals in private practice.

GPs abused
ALMOST every GP in Australia has been threatened, assaulted or verbally abused as drug addiction, long queues and disputes over medical bills push unstable patients over the edge, The Australian reports. The first national survey of violence against GPs by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute suggests 88% have been subjected to verbal aggression and one in six has been physically attacked by patients or their relatives. The survey suggests 6% of Australia’s 23 000 GPs have been physically assaulted in the past 12 months alone — twice the assault rate for the general community.

Chlamydia payments
YOUNGER Australians will be paid to get tested for chlamydia, as health experts look for new ways to combat rising rates of the sexually transmitted infection, the Courier Mail reports. People aged 16–30 years who are sexually active will be paid $10 if they accept an offer to undergo a chlamydia test at a participating pharmacy. Another $10 is given to the pharmacy for each test performed. The initiative is a pilot program in the ACT but if successful, it could be rolled out nationally.

ADHD diet link
A NEW study has found children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can benefit from a low-allergy diet, ABC News reports. Researchers from the Netherlands put 100 children aged 4–8 years with ADHD on either a low-allergy diet or a normal diet. The study, reported in The Lancet, found about two-thirds of the children on the special diet had a significant improvement in their symptoms of ADHD.

Unexpected benefit
BISPHOSPHONATE drugs that reduce the risk of fractures in osteoporosis could bring an unexpected benefit: an extra 5 years of life, The Australian reports. Researchers in Sydney said they were astonished to see the death rates among those taking bisphosphonate drugs were cut by two-thirds compared with patients taking vitamin D supplements or hormone treatment. The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggests the drugs could extend life by ensuring that toxic metals remain locked up in the patients’ bones.

Patches on PBS
AFTER 25 years, nicotine patches qualify for full subsidy status, reducing their cost by hundreds of dollars to smokers trying to quit, The Age reports. While drug companies normally fight to secure Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidies for their prescription products, the breakthrough for nicotine therapy came after a campaign by health groups. Health Minister Nicola Roxon launched the $50 million subsidy, saying that with increased cigarettes taxes and anti-smoking campaigns, the patches would help coax many Australians to quit, cutting the habit to 10% of the population. The current smoking rate is 16%.

Fibroid innovation
NEW technology at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne has revolutionised the treatment of uterine fibroids, allowing previously infertile women to give birth, The Age reports. The hospital was the first in Australia to start treating uterine fibroids with magnetic resonance image-guided focus ultrasound — a non-surgical technique that uses ultrasound waves to destroy fibroids in women’s uteruses while they lie inside an MRI machine.

Research initiative lauded
THE first national report of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative has been released, providing a comprehensive evaluation of research achievements against global peers, according to an opinion article in The Australian. In total, 65% of units were assessed as performing at world standard, including 21% above and 13% well above the rest of the world. ERA draws together information about discipline-specific research activity at each research institution, as well as information about each discipline’s contribution to the national landscape.

Health law challenge fails
DEMOCRATS in the US Senate have defeated a bid by Republicans to repeal last year’s sweeping health care overhaul, which includes a requirement that nearly all Americans obtain insurance, the New York Times reports. However, challenges to the law will continue, with the US Supreme Court ultimately expected to decide if the law is constitutional. Republicans said after the vote that they would persist in their efforts to overturn the law.

Posted 7 February 2011

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