Regional health shot.

The State government has promised $206m to redevelop four major country hospitals – Albany Hospital ($26.8m to upgrade its emergency department, theatres, surgical facilities, mental health beds and maternity ward), Broome ($42m for new beds, operating theatres and construction of a medical centre), Kalgoorlie ($40m to expand its emergency department, surgical facilities and medical technology) and South Hedland ($90m to construct a 50 bed hospital to replace the current ransportable Port Hedland hospital).

Biotech boom.

Perth-based biotechnology companies have been shaking and moving during the past month. pSivida announced it will acquire private US-based drug research company Control Delivery Systems (CDS) for $US104m. CDS designs, researches and develops drug delivery products and has enjoyed major strategic partnerships with Bausch and Lomb and Alimera Sciences. NeuroDiscovery has won its first contract in the Australian market with private Perth based pharmaceutical company Alzhyme, which is developing drugs to help treat Alzheimer’s disease. Biotech International (BI) shareholders approved a new share issue to finance the $2m purchase of David Craig Pharmaceuticals (DCP) based in Queensland. Local BI plans to add value to existing DCP business by extending its product range and marketing across Australia, and is negotiating the Australian and NZ distribution rights for Rexall (OTC drugs, vitamins and health care products).

Drs by numbers

New Medical Board figures show movements in registered doctors in Western Australia between 2000-2003. During that time, registered doctors increased 3% to 6,000 (compared to a 4% population growth). In 2003, 4,380 doctors in WA were clinicians (93% of the total), a 1% increase over 3 years. However, primary care doctors dropped 1% to 1,985. The number of full time equivalent practitioners per 100,000 populations declined from 227 to 216. The average age of primary care practitioners was 49.4 yrs, with one third over 55 yrs. Figures for specialists were almost identical. In 2003, females represented 20% of specialists, up from 17% in 2000. Predictions are this figure will grow as ~40% of all specialists in training in 2003 were females. An interesting side light is that the fall in doctors density was most notable in Perth and inner regions whereas the figure actually increased in remote and outer regional areas. Schemes to attract doctors to these areas may be working and city GPs are working harder!

RACGP back on track

The RACGP annual report suggests it has recovered from the parlous state it was in three years ago. The financial position at June 30 revealed net assets of just over $11m (an increase of $1.8m from the previous year). The biggest asset on the balance sheet was property, plant and equipment. The RACGP had a net surplus from ordinary activities of $1.7 million, reduced to $812,000 when GPEA is consolidated into the accounts. The final surplus of $551,000 was slightly above expectations. The College claims to have a record number of 11,689 members with an increase of over 1,000 during the year. Some 900 GPs sat the College exam and 22,000 were involved in the College’s CPD programme. At home, the WA Faculty notes that it brought 50 international medical graduates at varying stages of their entry into the medical workforce and under their wing. It also launched a GP mentor network to assist these doctors.

Ferri Scan wins public purse

Resonance Health has announced a contract with the Health Department of WA to supply its Ferri Scan technology to public hospital MRI scanners. Resonance Health Analysis Services (RHAS) a subsidiary of Resonance will provide the technology. According to its stock exchange release, costs associated with the provision of the service will be paid by the Health Department under the contract. Resonance states that it will receive its standard commercial fee. There will be no direct cost to the patient. The Company hopes that the contract will be a platform for it to expand in to other states. The first hospital to offer the service will be Fremantle Hospital. Exactly how many scans per month will be done given the current wait time for access to MRI machines is not stated.

More or less?

GP divisions are warming to the idea of the Health Dept’s chronic disease management teams – groups of two nurses and half a physiotherapist, dietician, social worker and podiatrist – to assist patients with diabetes, heart failure, COPD, etc. In-area location of teams may broaden services to practices and the community, as well as satisfy priority 1 – reduce preventable hospital admissions. It is intended teams will provide outreach services to practices, but how efficiently this will operate remains to be seen, particularly if patients are referred from multiple practices to the team’s assessment site. Which begs the question, will services be more or less fragmented under the scheme?

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