IPN expands

Corporate GP buyouts seem to be all the rage right now. Hot on the heels of the Primary/Symbion merger, Independent Practitioner Network (IPN) has acquired Fremantle-based GP group Gemini in a $32m deal. The acquisition is a very savvy move by IPN. Gemini has 42 medical centres nationally and 90 doctors compared to IPN’s 95 centres and 700 doctors. IPN has 22 GP practices in suburban Perth, whereas Gemini has 24 practices in primarily rural areas, which will avoid the practice mergers Primary and Symbion will struggle with. The expanded IPN won’t match the national might of the combined Primary/Symbion entity, but they are now the dominant corporate player in general practice in WA. Gemini’s Suzy Taylor will fill IPN’s vacant state manager position.

RPH not burning bridges

The ‘will they, won’t they’ fate of Royal Perth Hospital has taken a new turn with Minister McGinty announcing his intention to retain a 190 bed surgical facility in RPH’s north block after the new Fiona Stanley Hospital opens in 2013. Bucking the trend of the a slow, systematic shutdown of RPH facilities, the government has built a new purpose-built burns unit. Potentially, the new $2.5m, 10-bed facility only has a five year lifespan, but it is still welcome news for burns specialists such as Prof Fiona Wood. According to Fiona, the centre will accommodate 250 patients each year and support an outpatient service that cares for 3,500 patients annually.

Boffins wiped out

You’ve probably heard about the confidential patient files left on computers that were dumped in a bin outside RPH? Well, don’t fool yourself into thinking it was an isolated incident. A WA Public Sector Performance Report on the disposal of government computer hard drives released in March found four in ten ex-government computers purchased at auction contained recoverable data. From these computers, the auditors recovered confidential and sensitive data on public sector employees, detailed technical information, and documentation of their internal software development projects. Government IT boffins are meant to wipe these hard drives clean before disposal, but it looks like the nerds are too caught up playing World of Warcraft on company time to do their job properly.

Sobering facts

A government report released in April showed the very real (and staggering) social costs of our unhealthiest habits. In 2004/05, the social cost of alcohol was $15.3b, tobacco use was $31.5b and illicit drugs $8.2b. Alcohol and illicit drugs acting together cost another $1.1b. Total cost: $56 billion per year. So concerned was Health Minister Roxon by the figures, she’s already started up a taskforce to develop a National Preventative Health Strategy by June 2009.

WA HIV babies

There have been no cases of HIV transmission between mothers receiving the treatment and their children in WA in 14 years, according to RPH’s Prof Martyn French. Between 1999 and 2005, there were 56 WA HIV positive women (22 indigenous) who had babies. Of these, 48 received treatment that resulted in no transmission of HIV from the mother to child at birth. Left untreated, mothers have a 30% chance of passing on the infection. Of the eight pregnancies left untreated, five babies became infected with HIV. In 1999, a rural and remote immunology clinical service was established in response to the increasing number of HIV infected patients in the bush. Now, the service is being touted as a world leader and could be used in remote areas of Africa and Asian to support poor HIV patients.

Bad teeth, bad joke

The Association for the Promotion of Oral Health (APOH) reckons the Rudd government has pulled a nasty April Fool’s trick on April 1 by pulling the rug out from under the $2,150 Dental Medicare entitlement, which was only established in November 2007. The Dental Medicare entitlement provided a private dental subsidy for people with life threatening chronic conditions (including diabetes, cancer, bleeding disorders, organ transplants, and mental illness). APOH says, per-capita, people are now 453 times worse off, with the $2,150 entitlement replaced by an extra $4.69 per person in public dental funding. Despite growing from 16,000 to 20,000 services per month in just a few short months, Health Minister Roxon cited low uptake in her axing of the rebate.

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