Medical Forum’s caesarean snowball

Our April feature on WA’s escalating caesarean section rates has gathered a lot of media attention in the last few weeks. The story was first picked up by The West at the start of April and then reappeared on the front page after Easter, with Health Minister Jim McGinty touting a tough new policy on elective caeseareans to arrest the state’s 33% c-section rate. Even TV channels picked up the story. With all this attention, it looks like the elective caesearean could be headed the way of the circumcision and no longer performed in the public system for non-medical reasons.

Where’s the wellness?

Where should health consumers go to attain wellness? Well, according to HBF’s new Wellness cover, if you need travel vaccinations, it’s your GP, but beyond that wellness is attained via the psychologist, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, masseur/myotherapist, pharmacist (for nicotine replacement), pilates practitioner, reflexologist, herbalist, yoga therapist, and health device provider (for pedometer, bp monitor, support brace, pressure garments, etc). This new policy is regarded as good marketing designed to prevent the well insured from dropping HBF insurance in response to rising premiums. It makes an interesting statement on where primary care medicine fits in the wellness stakes.

Private funds: home and away

Starting this month, private health insurance is no longer restricted to admitted inpatient treatment. As long as the treatment is a clinically appropriate alternative to hospital treatment (and appropriately negotiated), private funds will cough up the cash. Home-based treatments (like chemotherapy, dialysis, psychiatric and palliative care) and disease management and prevention programs (including personalised health checks, dietary guidance, exercise supervision, and support to quit smoking) will be covered. The government said this new practice will not replace Medicare but time will tell.

C3 purge

Perth-based biotech Clinical Cell Culture (C3) is in the middle of a purge to arrest its $800k/month cash burn. The company is looking to offload its CellSpray technology and is searching for commercial partners to support ReCell, the company’s flagship cell harvesting device. The purge is a result of a strategic review implemented by company co-founder Prof Fiona Wood. Delays in receiving FDA approval for its products in the US and lower than expected sales are stalling the company’s progress. As a result, CEO Bob Atwill has received his marching orders after only 10 months in the job. It’s one disaster to another for C3’s chairman Dalton Gooding. As Chair of the West Coast Eagles, he’s simultaneously dealing with the Ben Cousins ‘drugs in sport’ fiasco.

A looming tech cost blowout?

This second Public Sector Performance Report for 2007 has some commonsense things to say about Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects currently underway by the state government. They expect at least $1.5 billion worth of major ICT projects in the next decade. Topping the list is the Health Department’s ICT reform project at $335m, over double the cost of the next largest project. This could prove ominous considering the report found the duration of some projects were two to three times longer than estimated; budgets were exceeded by over 100 %; intended benefits were delayed/not fully realised; and that the causes of difficulty persisted over time.

More headspace

We reported in our April edition that a consortium in Fremantle, including Fremantle GP Network, had pulled in $40k to research youth mental health options in the area as part of the federal government’s headspace initiative. Well, Great Southern GP Network (and consortium) fared considerably better in the government’s cash splash, picking up a handy $1.4m. A purpose-built centre in Albany may be on the cards, with extra services to be rolled out along the Great Southern down the track. Great Southern GP Network has the magic touch right now. They’ve brought in over $3m worth of grant funding for various projects in the last few months.

Vaccination crackdown

GPs have been informed that vaccines funded under the National Immunisation Program for schools will no longer be available to them. If kids miss the jab on school vaccination day, they can no longer look to their GP for fundamental defence against diseases like Hep B. It’s a Health Dept or Council Immunisation Clinic, or nothing. The crackdown is due to “leakage” of vaccines from the target group and the associated cost, which has been described as “unsustainable”. With only 70% of children getting vaccinated through schools, the other 30% could slip through the cracks. Goodbye common sense, hello Hep B?

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