New review, same reaction

The Interim Report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission was released as Medical Forum went to press. Rather than sifting through hundreds of pages to glean an understanding, 6minutes.com.au editor Michael Woodhead conveniently posted his summary of the report’ findings, which included more super clinics, voluntary enrolment with a single practice, fundholding to supplement fee-for-service, performance payments, extending Medicare and PBS rights to nurse practitioners, and procedural work to be done by physicians’ assistants. As Dr Joe Kosterich points out in response, “Anyone remember the original GP strategy and the GP strategy review? In 1998, a door stop was published pushing most of these ideas. After a decade, everything old is new again.”

Establishing local ‘wellness’

Applying pressure in a different way is a consortium of mostly UWA-based academics and clinicians who have authored a paper entitled Putting Health First – A Discussion Paper. The authors include Prof Fiona Stanley, the Health Consumer Council’s Michele Kosky, A/Prof Helen Milroy (Director, UWA Centre for Aboriginal Health and Dental Care), Prof Billie Giles-Corti (Director, UWA Centre for the Built Environment and Health), and Prof Cobie Rudd (Head of the School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Postgraduate Medicine, ECU … and former chief of the GPDWA). In their paper, this posse urges state and federal governments to establish a dedicated “wellness” unit in WA as one of its nine key recommendations aimed at preventative primary care. Copies of the paper are available from UWA’s Institute of Advanced Studies.

Telethon Institute boon

Exerting influence in a different direction, the Telethon Institute of Child Research has been awarded a $9.7m grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to undertake “an unprecedented program of research into pregnancy and early childhood.” Institute researchers will analyse the trends and impact of developmental disorders and mental health problems in childhood and the extent to which they contribute to educational problems, child abuse and neglect and crime. It will also examine early childhood influences on an adult’s later abilities and participation in the social, economic and civic aspects of our society. The funding lasts for five years, starting from 2010.

On the right track

$1.8m can buy you a lot these days. PathWest, for example, has just completed its $1.8m Automated Process System (APS) at Royal Perth. Kim Hames was touting its virtues in the media. He reckoned that the APS will “deliver savings on consumables of $800,000 per annum” and speed up lab results by a fair degree. The APS is a behemoth at 17 metres long and 1.3 metres high, a track that carries blood samples through various robotic stations. It can conduct 210 different types of test and handle 600 samples, producing 4,200 test results per hour. Sweet!

Connecting sick kids

We all know that kids are techno-genuises when it comes to computers, and with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace all the rage, the Starlight Foundation has capitalised on the Web 2.0 craze to create a site to connect sick kids, Livewire. With estimates of 450,000 people aged 10 to 21 living with a serious illness, Livewire managing director Omar Khalifa said the site offers them a “nice place to hang out”. The site has adult moderators and has attracted around 850 kids so far. We’re not sure if there are any health benefits to kids sharing their stories like this, but it looks colourful, and will no doubt keep them busy for hours. Check it out for yourself (and your patients): www.livewire.org.au

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