Payout for “hostile” medico’s sacking

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has recommended that Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service (DYHS) apologise and pay compensation to Dr Julie Copeman for terminating her employment at a Perth clinic in 2004, allegedly for lobbying about colleagues’ workplace conditions as an AMA rep. They found DYHS was frustrated that Dr Copeman had discussed her colleagues’ complaints in a forceful, open manner that was “interpreted as being hostile”. The Commission recommended DYHS pay Dr Copeman $76,185 compensation for emotional hurt and lost income.

Primary scuttle Symbion/Healthscope merger

Primary Health Care has used its recently acquired 20% stake in Symbion to scuttle the long-expected Symbion/Healthscope merger. Although 99.2% of voters (representing 73.9 % of total shares) were in favour, the requirement to meet a share vote of 75% was stymied by Primary. Healthscope and Symbion are now “discussing other options”.

Addiction Medicine fellowships

Tony Abbott has signed off on Addiction Medicine being recognised as a specialty, with access to higher Medicare rates. This affects about 180 docs Oz-wide. It will make little difference to the majority of specialists working full time in this field as most are in the public sector and are paid as consultants or are specialists in private practice (eg. psychiatrists). However, the one third or so who are GPs will receive a foundation fellowship and higher Medicare rebates as reward for working in this taxing area of medicine.

Ear Science in the Lions den

The Lions Ear and Hearing Institute under Prof Marcus Atlas is rebadging itself as the not-for-profit Ear Science Institute Australia and will build new swanky research and treatment facilities in Subiaco. The Lions Hearing Foundation has given ESIA an initial $300,000 grant from its retained profits and will have a permanent member on the ESIA board, although the two entities are theoretically separate. The five Lions Hearing Clinics, which provide patients for research and an income stream to someone, will be intimately linked to the new ESIA $15m facility for which the Catholic Church has offered a prime long-term lease alongside SJOG Subiaco hospital. A professional fundraiser has been employed with completion planned for early 2009. Telemedicine, ear tissue regeneration techniques, computer aided diagnosis, the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment device (Curtin Uni), cochlear implants, and Meniere’s treatment are some of the ongoing research interests with commercial possibilities. EISA gets most of its income (73%) through clinical and audiological services, with donations second (13%), and research grants less (8%).

More unmet need

A shortage of GPs in Perth has been common knowledge on the ground for many years but now more suburbs have been declared areas of unmet need. Officially, Ocean Reef, Joondalup, and Canning Vale have joined the suburbs meeting the criteria for “unmet need”. According to AGPN, the suburbs with the highest doctor to patient ratio are Rockingham and Kwinana (1:1600). Gosnells and Armadale are not much better. Making matters worse, as many as 25% of Perth GPs are over the age of 55 and have one eye on retirement.

Radiology secret list?

Medical Forum received an anonymous complaint that a radiology site was maintaining a secret list of their top ten referring GPs – and only offered bulk billing to their patients, snubbing all other GPs. When asked, both the site’s office manager and company CEO confirmed that, as a “premium site”, it did not bulk bill but did offer discounts to disadvantaged patients, regardless of their referring GP. The CEO said the list was a myth and that individual radiologists made their own determinations on patient fees. So what prompted the anonymous complaint? If you have any ideas, we’d like to know.

Burning for Wood

It is a sign of the times that at the recent ANZ Burn Association Conference in Perth, C3’s McComb Foundation featured heavily in terms of speakers and delegates but the marketing of C3 products was being done via a rep visiting from Sydney. Fiona Wood still has plenty of standing in burns circles, with many agents hoping for her endorsement of their product(s) to give sales a lift. Smith & Nephew were the biggest player at the conference, organised by burns nurse Joy Foong and Perth physiotherapist and ANZBA president Dale Edgar.

Joondalup under the microscope

The Joondalup Family health study kicked off in September. The long term study is looking at the interplay of environmental lifestyle and genetic components affecting the risk of common conditions, including asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Phase 1 will recruit 2000 participants – 500 nuclear families including adults and children under the age of 6. In 2008, Phase 2 will collect 3000 measures from up to 80,000 participants.

New biotech player

Retired GP Zeke Pervan is behind a new biotech start-up, Actinogen, which claims to have provisional patents over substances discovered by Director Prof David Keast that could be used as antibiotics against MRSA and VRE. It’s very early days, but the company hopes to raise $10m through a share float and has been fuelling media interest.

Charlies big buy gets blood pumping

Cardios over at Charlies have new toys to play with. A $1.6m spending spree bought the Cardiovascular Medicine department four new General Electric Vivid Ultrasound platforms. A smaller, mobile unit was also picked up. The new gear will allow SCGH to perform up to 25 tests per day (50% increase from last year – more than 1000 additional scans per year).

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