Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Red book finds rub with Rudd

SMH - Mark Metherell
October 7, 2010

The federal Treasury has signalled its unease with elements of the Rudd government's health reform plans that were supported by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

In its ''red book'' of policy analyses presented to the incoming government, Treasury doubts whether the reforms can begin on schedule and whether the national hospital funding changes can proceed without Western Australia.

The WA government has shown no sign it is prepared to accept a central part of the plan that requires the states to give up a third of their GST revenue in return for the Commonwealth's 60 per cent funding of public hospitals.

Advertisement: Story continues below The document also warns that the federal and state governments will need to make ''intensive efforts'' to ensure the proposed transfer of primary care services from the states to Canberra begins on time in July.

The chapter of the red book dealing with the health reforms contains censored sections apparently dealing with the financing of the changes, and a paragraph on ''sensitivities'' of implementing the change.

It refers to two areas where Canberra would like to take over full funding control - mental health services and aged care - saying there were reform ''pressures'' which would add to the task of implementing changes.

As well, it points to delays in introducing uniform measures to gauge quality and safety in public hospitals and health services, saying the ''new national performance and accountability framework will be particularly important for system efficiency and sustainability''.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

HEAL Media Release - Local Health Networks

October 1st 2010

HEAL spokesperson, Janet Mays, has expressed cautious support for the Local Health Network (LHNs) structure recently announced by the NSW State Government, as part of the National Health Reform Agreement, saying that any move to deliver better patient care and strengthen local decision making must be applauded. However, HEAL is asking what has really changed for Mountains residents?

“Both Mountains hospitals have been included in the newly formed Nepean Blue Mountains network, which also comprises Nepean, Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Portland hospitals. This grouping makes geographic sense, but one has to ask how will service provision really change for Mountains residents?”

“A smaller bureaucracy is obviously good, but the hub and spoke model that requires Mountains residents to travel to Nepean hospital for so many services remains”.

HEAL is also concerned that both Blue Mountains hospitals are included in a greater Sydney metropolitan network, signalling no change to the rural classification issue that has been one of the major reasons cited for the inability to attract and retain clinicians at BMDAMH.

“We have been seeking rural classification for Blue Mountains hospital for a long time as a way of ensuring that higher entitlements are paid to clinicians. Higher pay structures would at least give our community a fighting chance in terms of recruiting much needed staff and delivering more services locally” she added.

The new networks will be established in January 2011, and the NSW Health system will progressively transition to the new structure over the following 6 to 12 months.

Ms Mays concluded “we look forward to understanding more about the new Local Health Network structure and its implications. HEAL’s focus will be on ensuring that Mountains residents get their fair share of funding for both of our hospitals and that Mountains residents are provided with equitable access to quality health care – in the community or in hospital”.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Anger over lack of medical internships

SMH - Kate Benson
August 10, 2010

NSW medical students are demanding the federal government stop increasing university places after more than 100 graduates failed to get internships in public hospitals this week.

The crisis comes three years after the government increased university places to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors, but failed to employ extra staff in NSW hospital to supervise interns.

About 115 international students, who each paid more than $200,000 for their degrees, were told yesterday they would have to wait until Friday for final offers but there was little chance they would be employed, forcing many of them to return home.

''The intern year is a 12-month period of postgraduate training that is required for general medical registration,'' the president of the Sydney University Medical Society, Jon Noonan, said. ''Without it, a medical degree is not worth the paper it is printed on.

"At this point last year more than two-thirds of locally trained internationals had been offered an internship within NSW. The fact that none have been placed has come as a shock to our colleagues, who had been repeatedly reassured they would be taken care of,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, said 747 positions were available this year, more than enough for the state's 685 graduates, but NSW had been swamped by applicants from other states.

Last year, when the same problem occurred, the government invoked a priority system because it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

Under that system, international students trained in NSW are only offered positions once all Australians and New Zealanders trained in Australia and overseas-trained applicants are employed, a decision that has angered the Australian Medical Students Association.

''We have a government which provides huge incentives to get these doctors back once they have left [Australia] and it seems illogical to me to do so when we have people who've been trained here to our standards,'' its president, Ross Roberts-Thomson, said.

''A medical degree qualifies you for nothing but an internship. If you don't get an internship, you essentially have a piece of paper which allows you to drive a taxi - or not even that.''

Mr Noonan agreed, saying it defied logic that state and federal governments would shut the door on Australian-trained international students while relying on foreign-trained doctors to fill gaps in the health workforce.

Mr Noonan said his group wanted the state government to guarantee internships to all graduates in NSW and join with other states to adopt a consistent and co-ordinated framework for intern allocations.

Two years ago, the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said she was aware clinical training places were ''a pressure point within the system'' but the government had no plans to cut university places for medical students.

''This was a crisis that was always going to happen,'' the former chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, Bill Coote, said yesterday.

''There has been very rapid growth in the number of medical schools and the expansion of existing schools - and there is the parallel issue of how medical schools have been allowed to attract full-fee paying students to subsidise their activities when we can't provide all graduates with appropriate training.''

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Radical surgery for area health services

August 5, 2010 - 10:36AM

The way healthcare is delivered to patients in NSW will change under a state government plan which aims to ensure hospitals can better respond to local needs.

Area health services, which now run NSW hospitals and have been criticised for red tape, will be broken up to help deliver that care.

Seventeen local health networks will replace the eight area health services.

The NSW government will this morning release a discussion paper detailing its response to the national health reforms proposed by the Council of Australian Governments in April.

The Herald understands the following hospitals will be "paired", to share resources and equipment, under new local health network boundaries:

- Campbelltown and Liverpool

- Concord and Royal Prince Alfred

- Blacktown and Westmead

- Nepean and Blue Mountains and Lithgow

- Bathurst and Orange

Hunter New England Area Health Service, which includes John Hunter Hospital, will remain with the same boundaries.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, are releasing the discussion paper at Royal Prince Alfred.

Ms Keneally said the changes would deliver an extra $1.2 billion in funding to the NSW health system over four years and lead to 488 beds being opened in 2010/11.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Invitation to Public Health Forum - August 10th 2010

Sydney West Area Health Advisory Council is holding a community forum about public health services in the Blue Mountains Local Government Area and Western Sydney.

The forum is an opportunity for anyone who would like to talk about health services in the Blue Mountains and western Sydney.

When: Tuesday, August 10th 2010
Venue: BMDAMH Conference Room, Education Unit
Time 6.00pm - 7.00pm

Everyone is welcome

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hospital's CT scanner breaks again

July 30, 2010

Patients at Blue Mountains hospital have been put at risk after vital scanning equipment broke down, doctors say.

The computed tomography (CT) scanner - used to diagnose everything from fractures to cancer - was broken for more than a week. Doctors at the Katoomba hospital said the scanner was so old it had been considered obsolete since 2008, and it had broken down more than once.

While it was broken doctors had to transfer patients - potentially including emergency patients - to Nepean Hospital, an hour's drive away in Penrith. But a spokeswoman for the Sydney West Area Health Service said only four people had been transferred to Nepean and none were emergency patients.

A visiting medical officer at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, said the broken CT scanner delayed patient diagnoses: ''It affects patient management and safety.'' The chairman of AMA NSW's hospital practice committee, Brian Owler, said it should be replaced immediately.
Some staff and some in the community have criticised Blue Mountains hospital saying it is not given resources to function fully.

The Blue Mountains deputy mayor, Janet Mays, said the hospital was ''being downgraded essentially to a first-aid post''.

The area health spokeswoman said there were plans to replace the scanner by the end of the year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Controversial Sydney West Area Health chief resigns

Parramatta Advertiser
May 4th 2010

SYDNEY West Area Health Service chief executive Prof Steven Boyages resigned last week amid controversy over his handling of the job.

Prof Boyages had been in the top job of the area health service, which includes Westmead and Auburn hospitals, for 10 years.

His tenure was dogged by controversy over debts to suppliers and by dissent among senior doctors and nurses over his management style.

Prof Boyages was not available for comment before the Advertiser’s deadline but it has been reported he will transfer to the newly created NSW Clinical Education and Training Institute.

The Advertiser had been told by senior clinicians in recent times that Prof Boyages, an endocrinologist, was not considered a good manager.

“He’s a brilliant clinician but not such a good administrator,’’ one senior specialist told the Advertiser.

Prof Boyages was still working as an endocrinologist while running the area health service.

NSW Health director general Debora Picone has been quoted as saying that Prof Boyages had ``as many supporters as detractors’’