HBF changes cosmetic only

You may have heard the rumour that from July 1, HBF will no longer pay benefits for hospital treatment that is not eligible for a Medicare Benefit, such as cosmetic surgery? Medical Forum confirmed this with HBF spokesperson Andrew Walton, but the policy change only affects payouts for hospital accommodation for non-Medicare procedures. Andrew said the driver for this change was not cost, as the projected savings were “a drop in the bucket” at $300,000 annually (compared to another recent change, the removal of a co-payment for angiograms and angioplasties, which saves HBF $1.2m per year). Rather, the change is about consistency and closing a loophole in HBF policy. Hospital stays for procedures such as facelifts, liposuction, and breast augmentation or reduction will be affected. Most other health insurers do not cover these procedures.

Emergency department myths

According to a paper co-written by Charlies’s emergency department chief A/Prof David Mountain and published in the MJA, telephone advice lines, co-located GP services (even fully bulk-billing clinics), and even streamlining ED efficiencies (such as ‘fast tracking’ low complexity patients) do not significantly decrease emergency department loads. The authors also assert that rapid population growth (such as that experienced in the area serviced by Joondalup’s ED) and “inappropriate” or “general practice-type” attendances do not heavily contribute to overcrowding. They point the finger squarely at access block and hospital bed mismanagement and call for a hospital-wide or even system-wide approach to fix the problem. The paper also identified that Perth’s ED overcrowding contributes to 120 unnecessary deaths (an incidence of 8 per 100,000) annually.

Country hospitals webbed up

The excellent ‘WA Public Hospital Activity’ Health Department website, which has real time, daily, and weekly stats on Perth’s EDs and metro hospitals has now added country hospital beds to their daily data streams. The expanded website includes included data on 92 country hospitals and residential aged care facilities, including the three mental health inpatient units at Albany, Bunbury, and Kalgoorlie hospitals. This information is online right now at www.health.wa.gov.au/emergencyactivity/beds/countrymhealth.cfm. Tell your colleagues, tell your patients!

More Freo StreetDoctor

St John of God Hospital Murdoch has lent its weight (and chequebook) to Fremantle GP Network’s FREO StreetDoctor, allowing the much-needed service to provide an extra weekly StreetDoctor session at St Patrick’s Community Centre, Fremantle. For SJOG Murdoch, it’s not just about feeling warm and fuzzy. It’s another notch in their Social Outreach and Advocacy program, which aims to care for locals who are “oppressed, materially poor, powerless and marginalised.” The new session at St. Pat’s is every Thursday from 9am to noon.

Dirty hands make heavy work

A new national program to fight healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) has been launched at Fremantle Hospital. The National Hand Hygiene Initiative aims to standardise hand hygiene practices for healthcare workers, and introduce a national system for monitoring rates of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It has been proven that hand hygiene is one of the most effective means of reducing HAIs. While WA has one of the lowest rates of MRSA in the world, vigilance is needed: an average hospital-acquired MRSA blood stream infection costs more than $22,000 to treat and requires 10 additional bed days. So keep washing your hands, people!

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