WA News Have You Heard? November 2016
November 2016
Print E-mail

201611-Jim-AvatarIt’s virtually a reality

Jim is an elderly Australian farmer with mild dementia. He’s also an avatar with 50 different verbal and non-verbal responses and lives entirely in his own virtual world. Even so, some Curtin University Psychology and Speech Pathology students think he’s better than the real thing when it comes to learning how to communicate with patients. A study led by Dr Janet Beilby investigated undergrads self-rated communication skills, knowledge, confidence and empathy. After 30 minutes with either a current nursing home patient, an older actor trained to portray an elderly patient or Avatar Jim, Jim got the thumbs up. He apparently presented a communication challenge and students thought that was more realistic. Students had to work harder to build rapport and empathy because they couldn’t use comforting cues. “We recently gave Jim an avatar wife, Moira. They live together in an independent unit in an aged-care facility. While Moira mostly placates Jim or pulls him into line, she can also pose other challenges for students – not only having to deal with a patient’s reaction, but also the reaction of the patient’s carer or loved one,” Janet said.

Revalidated and Disrupted


The hour-long member forum at the GP16 in Perth tackled the big issues of revalidation and digital disruption – an ambitious plan by anyone’s reckoning. The 30-minute digital discussion got bogged down in a 10-minute lamentation over the apparent phasing out of faxes, which left tech innovator and panellist Dr Marcus Tan a little bewildered. Yes, the profession has that far to go before it gets into coo-ee distance of the 21st century. Revalidation fared better. When MC Ali Moore asked WAGPET CEO Dr Janice Bell if she thought the Medical Board of Australia had made its case for revalidation her one-word answer – NO – brought the house down. The new College president Dr Bastian Seidel told the forum the College would work with the MBA on its revalidation quest but only to ensure common sense prevails. A no might be simpler.

Rural policies are working

“General practice is not the sewer for people who think they can get a job there if they can’t get a job anywhere else.” That was the gauntlet thrown down at the last Doctors Drum forum on doctor training. This sentiment appears to be confirmed by the news from WAGPET that of the 1500 positions advertised this year, 170 remain unfilled because there weren’t enough good applicants. It was better news at GP16 with the launch of a WAGPET commissioned report by Kim Snowball revealing that more specialists were heading bush (numbers up 25% from 2007). Sustained investment in education and training has been the driver along with Royalties for Regions money rebuilding and upgrading country hospitals. However, GP proceduralists remain the backbone of country medical services, the report said. Reliance on overseas recruitment has also fallen. In 2005, 70% of procedural doctors were recruited from overseas and in 2015 this had fallen to 45%. For the first time, locally trained doctors were making up the majority of new arrivals into rural practice.

Sugar-coated stats

We took a second look at a media release sent early August by the Public Health Association (PHA), just after the report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011 was released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Diet, it said, had been underplayed as a contributor of the burden of disease, estimated at 7.2% of the 31% of preventable disease factors that include diet, tobacco use, alcohol use and physical inactivity. It went on to say that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has assessed dietary intake directly against dietary recommendations and found only 4% of Australians ate enough nutritious food such as fruit and vegetables, grains, lean meats and dairy foods. ABS said a third of daily energy intake in the same survey came from discretionary food and drinks, yet PHA said that 75% of young people aged 9-18 regularly exceeded the WHO advice that free sugars should contribute less than 10% of total energy intake. There is such big disagreement between these figures we can only assume we are waiting for the obese kids to reach ‘burden of disease’ age before the figures blow out. PHA suggests action like a sugar tax on soft drink, additional support for the Health Star Rating on packaged foods; and a comprehensive National Food and Nutrition Policy.

Anxiety over genital normality201611-Women-pubic-hair

Back in May, we looked at the growing demand for female genital cosmetic surgery and now a survey of 443 GPs published in BMJ Open shows that a third of them had been asked for referrals by girls under 18 for genital cosmetic surgery. Lead author Dr Magdalena Simonis said girls as young as 15 were undergoing labiaplasties and other procedures, even though the medical consensus was that female genitalia did not reach maturity until around the age of 18. At least half the requests came from girls and women whom GPs considered emotionally vulnerable, suffering from anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties or body dysmorphic disorder.  “There’s an epidemic of anxiety about normality,” she said. The study identified fashion, online pornography, perceptions of beauty, as well as brazilian waxes as playing a major role in forming women’s idea of ‘normal’. As of October 1, the Medical Board advises that girls under 18 receive mandatory counselling and a three-month cooling-off period. 

Path labs handover


Ownership of 19 of St John of God Pathology’s laboratories and 180 collection centres in WA and Victoria transferred to Clinical Labs on October 10. SJG Health Care will hold a minority shareholding in Clinical Labs and CEO Dr Michael Stanford is on its board. The labs will operate under the SJG brand for up to 12 months until the company is fully integrated. Clinical Labs have a long-term contract with SJG hospitals for pathology services.

Protecting the vulnerable

Submissions to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into Elder Abuse have closed and on December 12 a set of proposals for law reform will be launched. WA Police and Advocare were among the local submissions. The inquiry will head to Perth again at the end of January for a new round of consultations and submissions on the actual reform proposals close on February 27. A report will be delivered to the Attorney General in May. See http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/elder-abuse/submissions