Media medicos

The same day The West announced the big worm had joined the two ends of the Perth tunnel, the two ends of Prof Bruce Gray’s business were at loggerheads. UWA is claiming ownership of intellectual property (cancer treatment) developed by Prof Gray while in their employ, saying he had no right to on-sell patents to listed company Sirtex for millions or assign one patent to a charity for $11.4m in shares. A court battle looms. In the same newspaper, obesity Perth surgeons Dr Stephen Watson and Leon Cohen were head to head promoting tubal gastrectomies and lap-banding in an article that included patient testimonial.

Performance matters

DCA Group (Perth Imaging and Perth Radiological Group) is the latest health-related company to take a hit on the stock market – shares fell 20% after profit forecasts slumped to around $40m. This has not dampened expansion, with the purchase of an additional 1,575 aged care beds through the Regis Group. Earlier this year, Healthscope (General Pathology and the Mount Hospital in WA) dropped sharply on a profit downgrade. IBA Health is continuing to expand and recently raised $30m for an Asian hospital market push, as well as Malaysia and China. Macquarie Bank owns around 10% of IBA.

DNA backlog hurts

PathWest has a sinister side according to the recent WA Auditor General report. It and the Chemistry Centre receive most of the 25,000 forensic exhibits collected at 1,000 or so crime scenes each year, tests crucial to criminal investigations and prosecutions, particularly illicit drug and DNA analysis. The AG says delays in obtaining forensic evidence, particularly a large backlog in DNA analyses, is causing delayed prosecutions and court adjournments. Poor integration of resources has resulted in bottlenecks and things could get worse unless they chuck out tests no longer needed and improve exhibit access and tracking, along with information sharing.

Mental boost

The $3m upgrade to mental health services in the Peel and Rockingham-Kwinana districts will be welcomed. Jim McGinty has found an extra 30 clinical staff. Ten for the intensive day therapy unit (The Catalpa Centre), servicing up to 30 people with severe mental illness, hoping to keep them out of hospital. The Child and Adolescent Services and Adult Community Mental Health Teams get an extra 12 staff to improve services to children and adults, providing urgent responses, home visits and early interventions. The new MultiSystemic Therapy program (five clinicians) will provide a flexible home-based service for those aged 12 to 16 and their families – to improve family functioning, school attendance and reduce offending behaviour. Three extra mental health nurses will work from the Rockingham Kwinana Hospital ED (where a 25-bed intermediate mental health care facility is earmarked for completion in late 2007).

Report, report HRIT

The Health Reform Implementation Taskforce has been given a slight bollocking from the Auditor General in his recent examination of 15 HRIT projects, with only three on target, four of uncertain status due to reporting deficiencies, and eight behind schedule due to recruitment difficulties, realignment with other projects, and lack of infrastructure in place. Delays varied between 1 and 12 months. The AG’s solution for keeping outsiders informed were more reports, more often – scoping papers, project plans, business cases, implementation plans and evaluation plans. Project costs and benefits need clarification. Separate project budgets were suggested, with only three already identified, the classic being an extra $0.95m to Improve Cost Efficiencies in Hospitals! Those interested in a bureaucrat’s view on paralysis by reporting should visit

On the back of

The BRW Rich 200 list values Primary Health Care founder Dr Edmond Bateman at $340m (up nearly $100m on 2005). He runs 31 general practices (seeing 70,000 people each week), with none in WA, and plans to open a further nine over the next 12 months. Former Perth entrepreneur Michael Boyd tops $290m (up $70m on last year). He bought into Sonic Pathology in 1992 when it was a struggling business and has been involved with Life Care physiotherapy and Foundation Health Care (now part of IPN, 73% Sonic owned).

Vaccine pipeline profits

Prof Ian Fraser’s human papilloma virus vaccine has received all important FDA approval, so that Merck & Co.’s cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil should hit the US markets in July (and Oz later). Gardasil is effective against HPV 16 and 18 (about 70% of cervical cancers), and against HPV 6 and 11 (about 90% of genital warts). The vaccine is Merck’s biggest revenue raiser in the pipeline, with sales of US$1 billion predicted. However, competition looms from GlaxoSmithKline’s HPV vaccine. And the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has not decided to recommend routine vaccination with Gardasil. Merck also received FDA approval this year for vaccines against rotavirus (RotaTeq) and herpes zoster (Zostavax).

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