Earthquake amputation
IT was a choice Brisbane urologist Stuart Philip and his colleagues never imagined they would have to make, The Australian reports. Dr Philip and a female colleague from Melbourne, in Christchurch for a urology conference when the earthquake struck last Tuesday, had to amputate a man’s legs using only a hacksaw and a Leatherman knife amid a sea of debris and dust. The two Australian urologists and a Christchurch anaesthetist found a man with his legs pinned by a large beam from a collapsed office building. The woman doctor, who remains too traumatised to speak about the operation, was chosen to perform the amputation as she was the smallest in a very tight space. The man was in a stable condition in hospital.

Fatigue concerns
AN Australian urologist who was in Christchurch when the quake struck has been working non-stop helping to treat victims, but warns problems could come in the next few days as fatigue starts to take its toll, ABC News reports. Dr Rick Catterwell, of Adelaide, said fatigue could cause problems for over-stretched medical staff. “From talking to the staff at [Christchurch] hospital, there’s still a lot of patients who are requiring surgical intervention,” he said.

Extra funds wanted for Medicare Locals
THE Australian General Practice Network (AGPN), which is expected to run the federal government’s new Medicare Locals, has warned it will need extra funding to fulfil its first task — keeping after-hours patients away from hospital emergency departments, The Australian reports. AGPN says Medicare Locals will have to provide after-hours care at zero cost to patients to lure low-income people away from free public hospital emergency departments. The call for extra funding came as the AMA warned that operating guidelines for Medicare Locals showed they might be the first step towards a British-style national health system with budgets for patient care.

Locked in but happy
A SURPRISING number of patients with locked-in syndrome say they are happy, despite being paralysed and having to communicate mainly by moving their eyes, according to the largest study of the syndrome ever conducted, the Washington Times reports. Most cases are caused by major brain damage, often sustained in traumatic accidents. As part of the study, published in the BMJ, researchers in Belgium sent questionnaires to people with locked-in syndrome, asking them about their medical history, their emotional state and views on euthanasia. Sixty-five patients used a scale to indicate their sense of well-being, with 47 saying they were happy and 18 unhappy.

Aged care shortage
A NEW report says Australia faces a shortage of 280 000 aged-care places by 2050 if there are no changes to current policy, ABC News reports. The Access Economics report, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia, found demand would outstrip supply by 2050, fuelled in part by a projected increase in patients with dementia. The figures suggest there will be 1 million Australians diagnosed with dementia by 2050. Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO John Watkins says the reform of aged care should recognise the extra demands that dementia care places on family carers as well as the additional costs on service providers.

App for blokes
A MELBOURNE hospital has launched an Australia-first iPhone application targeting blokes who are reluctant to seek medical advice or talk about their health concerns with their doctor, The Age reports. The Alfred hospital’s myHealthMate application features a symptom checker allowing men to match more than 50 common symptoms to certain areas of their body. Dr Marco Bonollo, head of the hospital’s Disease Management Unit, said men represented about 60% of admissions to The Alfred, a statistic that was mirrored in hospitals around Australia.

Cancer treatment
A TEAM of Melbourne doctors is working on a new cancer treatment that spares patients the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy drugs, The Age reports. Professor Miles Prince, of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, said he and his colleagues were testing “epigenetic drugs” that switch off the controlling mechanisms of genes inside cancerous cells rather than killing them with toxic agents. Their research was published in Blood. The new combination treatment will be trialled this year on patients with myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukaemia.

Approval changes slammed
A PROPOSED overhaul of the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s medical devices approvals and reporting process has been slammed by industry as costly and unlikely to benefit patient safety, The Australian reports. There has been an angry reaction to the TGA’s statement that the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods needed to change because some product sponsors were manipulating the listing process. The Medical Technology Association of Australia said the cost to industry may be prohibitive.

TV provokes fears
TV crime programs may be partly to blame for many Australians mistakenly fearing that people with schizophrenia are prone to violence, the Canberra Times reports. The results of a national drug-company-sponsored survey show 47% of Australians believe that people with schizophrenia have violent tendencies.

Mass polio vaccinations
THE United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that Burma is planning a mass polio vaccination after a baby was diagnosed with the virus, the country’s first case in 3 years, The Age reports. One case was enough to trigger an “emergency response”, UNICEF said. Worldwide, cases of polio have decreased by more than 99% from an estimated 350 000 in 1988 to 1604 in 2009 as a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.

Posted 28 February 2011

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