Spot the Aussie.

WA’s ongoing push to recruit doctors now includes a new website www.overseasdoctors.health.wa.gov.au aimed at overseas-trained doctors looking to work here. The website helps these doctors with regulatory requirements, has info on job vacancies, the Australian Medical Council exam and general information about living in WA. A section for employers details how to go about employing an OTD, including state and federal government requirements. Both WA and Queensland remain disproportionately reliant on overseas trained doctors to fill gaps in the public hospital system and rural general practice.

Big brother falls over.

Doctors often wonder how Health Care cardholders acquire these benefits while driving expensive imported vehicles. That’s nothing. According to the Australian National Audit Office report, up to 0.5 million registered Medicare cardholders are dead. As well, over 35,000 cardholders gave a date of birth before 1900, with the earliest being in the 1860’s. The report said some people are registered twice, as both male and female, and around 2,000 cardholders have not actually been born yet. The HIC has data on 24 million individuals – not bad given the population of Australia is 20 million. Meanwhile, the federal government is looking at tightening access to the Disability Support Pension. The number receiving this benefit has more than doubled in the last 12 years, from 334,000 to nearly 700,000.

A cancer on growth.

Sirtex Medical, the company founded by Perth surgeon Bruce Gray, recorded a loss of $781,000 for the six months to December 2004, a worsening performance than the previous period. The company is marketing technology that delivers radioactive microsphere to sites of liver cancer. Sales revenue had increased by 7% but the company faces increased sales and marketing costs in trying to crack the US market. In its half-yearly report, Sirtex noted the lack of a Medicare rebate was impeding sales in Oz, but progress in Europe had been good. Sales in India are not expected to be big. Sirtex share price, which peaked near $5 during the heat of a takeover battle with Cephalon Australia P/L, is now trading a little under $2.

Pharmacies scrutinised again.

Current rules protect pharmacies from competition, with restrictions on ownership, licenses to operate, co-location and access to major shopping centres. These rules expire in June and are being reviewed. However, this is being overseen by the Pharmacy Guild, which has been criticised by both the Australian Consumers Association and the Federal AMA. Federal AMA president Bill Glasson told the Australian Financial Review that the current rules were anti competitive and not in the best interest of consumers or doctors – the cosy relationship between Government and Guild needed to be exposed. In WA, GP divisions have been silent on this issue and the local AMA has not openly supported past urges from some members with practices aligned to shopping centres to lobby for changes to pharmacy rules. It has also rejected conflict of interest claims over the family pharmacy interests of AMA Executive Director Paul Boyatzis.

Scanning WA

SKG Radiology has been given one of three new MRI Medicare licences for WA, with 21 issued around Australia to bring the total to 101. The new machine is yet to be installed at Hollywood Private Hospital, giving SKG three licensed scanners and one unlicensed scanner for workers’ compensation cases etc. Other licences were issued to Imaging the South (Bunbury South West Health Campus) and Perth Radiological Clinic (an existing service not previously funded at Joondalup Health Campus), all part of the Howard Government’s election promise to expand MRI services.

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