Fong back in saddle

It didn’t take long for Dr Neale Fong to bounce back. Never one to let his rolling stone gather moss, the industrious Dr Fong signed up a month after his resignation from WA Health as executive chairman of Subiaco-based Chrysalis Resources, a mining exploration company soon to list on the ASX. According to the company’s prospectus, Neale doesn’t hold any shares in the company and will sit on an annual salary of $100,000. It’s hardly the lofty heights of $600k but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. Neale continues on as chairman of the WA Football Commission, non-executive director of Churches of Christ Homes, and founding partner of the Bali International Medical Centre.

Vote for me!

Important election decisions loom for Perth’s two high-profile female GPs. Dr Vasantha Preetham completes her two year term as federal RACGP president this year with membership up (of which 4,000 of its 18,000 members are not GPs) and no controversy in sight. She has yet to put her cards on the table regarding a second term but a rival has already nominated (NSW GP Dr Chris Mitchell, husband of former RDA president Sue Page). Federal AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua has also yet to announce whether she will contest a second year, although at this stage, her position remains uncontested. Word on the rumour mill is that Rosanna has political aspirations ­- but is it to be state or federal? A state election is due by February 2009, and with the resignation of Nedlands MLA Sue Walker from the Liberal Party, a safe seat presents itself. However, should the good doctor decide to run for state parliament, she would almost certainly need to stand down as AMA president in the next month or so – the same course former AMA president Dr Brendan (” 7%”) Nelson took back in 1995. Want to place a bet?

Falls on the rise

Looks like WA patients are increasingly unsteady on their feet and staff are not on hand to catch them. In 2005/2006 there were 6,141 inpatient falls recorded in WA public hospitals. Back in 2002, falls accounted for 18,706 ED presentations (5,923 admissions), and on current projections, are set to cost the WA Health system $174m by 2021. State and federal fall prevention strategies have been drafted over the last decade but proper evaluations have not been done and there are no standardised data collection processes. With baby boomers greying, maybe now is the time to start?

Itching to see a dermo?

If you need to see a dermatologist in a hurry, you could be out of luck. Rumour has it some dermos in Perth have waiting lists of up to 6 months. With retirements last year, there are now only 32 dermos in WA and training positions remain scarce. There is a blame game being played between the College of Dermatologists and the federal and state governments on the training issue but court case currently going through the appeals process should sort out who is responsible.

A blip on the sonar

Calling all aspiring sonographers: Curtin University has become the only university in WA that offers an accredited course in medical sonography. Graduates of their new part-time Master of Medical Sonography course will be eligible to become accredited medical sonographers through the Australasian Sonographer Accreditation Registry (ASAR). Right now, there are only 314 active registered sonographers in WA. Applications for the Semester Two 2008 intake close on 31 May 2008. For more info, go to http://www.medicalimaging.curtin.edu.au/

Unhealthy sponsorship

The Australian ran a recent exposé on a practice the profession has tacitly tolerated for years. Drug companies are muddying the waters of so-called ‘independent’ medical educational seminars by sponsoring them and influencing content. In one example uncovered by the newspaper, HealthEd’s 2008 sponsorship prospectus offers platinum-level sponsors the opportunity to “determine a topic that is on-message for your product area”. Of course, the speakers remain independent, but Healthy Skepticism suggests drug companies were unlikely to suggest speakers who would contradict their marketing messages.

Doesn’t smell right

Two recent outbreaks of petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities have prompted calls for the non-sniffable alternative Opal to be compulsory at outback roadhouses, which is where sniffers get their fix. First produced by BP in 2005, Opal has been credited with dramatically reducing petrol sniffing in Aboriginal communities since its introduction. However, four outback roadhouses are refusing to make the switch because 10% of cars (mostly older vehicles – the type more typically seen ‘out bush’) could not use Opal. Owner of the one of the hold-outs, Bruce Farrands from the Rabbit Flat roadhouse, said he had listened to “both sides of the story” but that “it’s all really about the parents stopping their own kids from sniffing. You can’t hold everybody’s hand.”

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