WA News Have You Heard?
Have You Heard
November 2017
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Have You Heard?

Clearing a path on mesh worries

The submissions are in and hearings are completed in the Senate inquiry into transvaginal mesh implants and the report is due on November 30. It was a tragic stream of suffering women that fronted the hearings in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the ACT. There were also compassionate doctors trying to be part of a resolution that can help these patients and patients in the future. Murdoch specialist Dr Michelle Atherton, who researched painstakingly, yet ultimately frustrated, to determine how many women are affected and what to do about it, contributed on an individual basis and also had input into the RANZCOG submission. She and colleagues also met women from the Mesh Support Group – recognising their very real health dilemmas. Both submissions are worth following up on the senate inquiry website. Michelle told senators she intended to visit the US in order to learn more from Dr Veronikis in St Louis, “who is probably the most experienced mesh removal urogynaecologist internationally”. “Whilst we in Australia are able to remove mesh, there will be things to be learned from his vast experience.” In the meantime, among RANZCOG’s nine-point suggestions was the establishment of mesh registry and a better tracking of MBS items numbers to determine the exact number of women who have mesh implants and those with complications. It also recommended that transvaginal mesh should not be used as the primary surgical treatment for pelvic organ prolapse.

201711-ePAT1 Face Oct17ePAT1 maps face for pain201711-ePAT2 Assessment Oct17ePAT assessment screenThe face tells the story

Back in October 2014, we interviewed the then head of Curtin University’s School of Pharmacy, Prof Jeff Hughes, because we heard of interesting research going on there using facial recognition technology to help detect pain in non-verbal patients. The cohort directly in the sights was dementia sufferers. It was the work of Jeff and a PhD student Mustafa Atee and it was plain to see that if this worked, it would be a terrific boon for an ageing population. At the time, the pair was in sensitive negotiations for development funding, then commercialisation talks so they requested no fanfare. Well the trumpets are out now, a company has been formed, ePAT in which both men are involved, and the app has been developed, TGA approved and taken up by Dementia Services Australia (a partnership led by aged care provider Hammond Care). The new app is called PainChek™, and it has a Class 1 Medical Device licence that has TGA and CE mark (Europe Economic Area) regulatory clearance. It uses AI and smartphone technology to visually analyse facial expressions, assess pain levels in real time and update medical records in the cloud. It is expected to be rolled out nationally next year to initially 150 consultants but international markets are also keen. ePAT intends to introduce and specialised app for children’s pain over the next 12 months.

RACGP’s serious money

The RACGP Annual Report 2016-17 has just been released. The college as of July 1 this year had 35,259 members, of which 19,749 are fellows (and the rest are students, doctors-in-training and ‘other’). Against the $62.78m income (up from $57m last financial year), the big ticket expenses were $31.77m employee benefits and on-costs (no mention of the number of employees), $4.24m IT-related costs (down from the previous year), $4.95m advertising and media (down from previous year), $3.88m GP sessional and sitting payments and $3.51m conference and meeting costs. The RACGP had $32.37m cash on hand on July 1, 2017, and $42.46m in non-current assets and from its statement of revenue from operating activities made (in total $62.78m) includes: $30.61m in membership, QI&CPD fees, $22.88m in education, course registration and other fees, $3.91m in research and other grants and donations but only $1.99m in sponsorship and advertising. That’s a lot of money.

WA diabetes breakthrough

Groundbreaking work on a rare type of diabetes in young people (under 35) – caused by a single genetic mutation early in life – has launched Prof Tim Davis and his team from UWA, FSH and University of Exeter into the MJA last month. The team’s research into monogenic diabetes in the young (MODY) and how it is distinguished from other types of diabetes garnered praise as it is said to help with early interventions of appropriate therapies, prognosis and family screening. The results come from a longitudinal observational study of 1668 people with diabetes in Fremantle. Their risk of MODY was assessed with the UK risk prediction model, which has been validated for patients with European ethnic backgrounds but is largely untested in non-European populations. Data suggests that about one in 280 Australians diagnosed with diabetes has a monogenic form of the disorder; most have a European ethnic background. “Twelve of 148 young participants with a European ethnic background (8%) were identified likely to have MODY; four had a glucokinase gene mutation,” Tim said. “Thirteen of 45 from a non-European ethnic background (28 per cent) were identified as likely to have MODY, but none had a relevant mutation.

GPs – help is at hand

A collaboration between Rural Health West and the WA Primary Health Alliance has produced a one-stop-shop for all things general practice with a new state-wise support service, Practice Assist. The service is free for all WA GPs and builds on the existing practice supports from both organisations with a choice of online, telephone and face-to-face services. There are not too many areas Practice Assist doesn’t venture with help offered on practice management and business support to accreditation, digital health and health pathways.CEO of Rural Health West Tim Shackleton told Medical Forum while his organisation had developed a great service with a good reputation, Rural Health West staff was stretched thin when it came to visiting practices face-to-face. The partnership meant PHN liaison staff in the regions could help spread the net wider to more rural GPs. WAPHA CEO Learne Durrington felt the centralised information and resource hub would be a huge boon for GPs. “Most enquiries can be dealt with on the spot, either via the website or a phone call, freeing up practice visits for requests that need more time and more support,” she said. Practice Assist Help Desk 1800 2 277 478, email or website www.practiceassist.com.au

App to help carers

According to the media release, Palliative Care Australia is set to develop an app to help people with a life-limiting illness, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the nib foundation. It’s not ready yet, but with National Carers Week (16-22 October) has come the announcement to brighten the lives of Australia’s 2.8 million carers who provide an estimated $1.1 billion of unpaid care every week. PCA CEO Liz Callaghan said, “Our app will enable the primary carer of a person who is sick to share their specific needs. It may be providing a meal, walking the dog or running an errand for them. It may also be providing care for the sick person while their primary carer attends a meeting, a child’s sporting event or takes a break”. These carers have depleted wellbeing, and feelings of isolation with lack of time to maintain personal, physical and mental health. We hope to test drive the App in our next edition.

Who and why of mistakes

As part of our link with the WHO, Australia wants to reduce medication errors by 50% within five years. Mistakes are costing the world an estimated US$42 billion annually – with people in low-income countries disproportionately affected. In Oz, between 2-3% of all hospital admissions are medication-related, that’s at least 230,000 admissions annually costing about $1.2 billion. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is facilitating the campaign launch for the Western Pacific region. Besides Australia, nations represented at the WHO meeting in Brisbane include China, Japan, the US, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and France. Commission CEO Adj/Prof Debora Picone pointed to polypharmacy, medications with a narrow therapeutic range, and patients passed between clinicians as higher risk situations. While Australia worries about such things as the elderly, medication charts in ACFs and medication safety programs in hospitals, you have to wonder why “low-income countries are disproportionately affected”. 

WA spotlight on abuse

Following on the heels of the national inquiry into elder abuse, an upper house select committee has been established by the WA Parliament to look into the local issues. It is inviting submissions to be delivered by 4pm, November 17, 2017 addressing these specific issues: definition and prevalence of elder abuse; what forms it takes, identify risk factors; legislative frameworks and agency and police responses among others. For information email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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