WA News Have You Heard?
Have You Heard
May 2017
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Owners push the envelope

Medical Forum caught up with Hills GP Dr Sean Stevens to talk about the momentum of the newly formed national Australian GP Alliance, which met for the first time in March. AGPA was forged from the fires of the ongoing pathology rental issue (which this month’s budget will hopefully clarify). However, it has taken on greater complexity which may startle some of the representative organisations around town. The aim of the group, says Sean, is to find solutions for issues such as pathology rental, Health Care Homes, dealing with the PHNs and risk and governance management that reflect concerns of independent practice owners. There has been growing disquiet that when it comes to owners’ specific needs, the AMA and the College are hamstrung to help because of conflicts of craft interests and charters. They needed some muscular lobbying of their own and like all good grassroots movements, local politicians will be targeted. Sean said there is a strong appetite among the 75 owners who attended the Sydney meeting and subcommittees have been formed and action plans drawn up. The strategic planning committee will meet in Melbourne on May 13 to discuss the fallout from the Federal budget.

Screening better, not more

On P16, we speak to Prof Christobel Saunders about breast cancer research and she also had some interesting things to say about the hot topic of screening and the need to tailor it to avoid unnecessary treatment. "At the moment the only discriminating feature is age. We offer everyone a mammogram over the age of 50. If we could work out who is at very high risk and screen them more often and differently, and determine who was at very low risk and wouldn't benefit from screening, that would be useful," she said. "Screening has great value for a limited number of women and of less value for another group of women. Surely we should work out who would benefit. We also need better technology." She said while technology had improved, it was still essentially the same test as 30 years ago. Breast screening services around the country were united in the need to find better ways to screen. "Overdiagnosis is a real issue but we don't know who we are overdiagnosing and overtreating," she said. Research into tailored screening was in the wind and Christobel hoped WA and Victoria would be trial sites.

The whole nine months27042017-premature-baby

PHD candidate and KEMH’s chief sonographer Michelle Pedretti’s research into preterm birth is indicates that a shortened cervix between 16 and 26 weeks of pregnancy is strongly associated with preterm birth. She told Medical Forum that the length of the cervix should be routinely measured at the standard mid-trimester foetal anatomy scan and hopes that GPs will record this in a patient’s record. While the majority of scans are transabdominal, there was a case for some women to have their cervixes measured transvaginally for greater accuracy. “Women who have had a previous preterm birth, surgery on their cervix or a pre-mid-trimester pregnancy loss are considered higher risk of preterm birth and should have their cervix measured transvaginally at 16, 19 and 21 weeks,” she said.

Capital boost

It was a big month for WA-based online appointments company HealthEngine with its founders Dr Marcus Tan and Adam Yap sealing a capital raising deal with Sequoia India (through Alium Capital) for $26.7m. The Australian Financial Review reported that the deal was a $7m bonus as it was believed the company was looking to raise $20m. Sequoia will have a seat on the board alongside what Marcus described as “cornerstone investors” Seven West Media and Telstra Ventures. He also signalled the intention of HealthEngine to enter overseas markets. The AFR quoted him as having “grand aspirations and we want to improve healthcare globally" which he added would likely to be done through acquisitions. HealthEngine was named among Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow alongside fellow Perth company, Chemo at Home.

New guy on the block

In other business news, those WA medical and diagnostic services under the aegis of Primary Health Care will be interested to hear that Henry Bateman, son of Primary’s founder Dr Ed Bateman, has forged out on his own multimillion dollar GP corporate venture, Cornerstone Health, after being overlooked in 2015 as Primary’s CEO. Last month he enlisted RACGP doyen Prof Michael Kidd as a director. Set up earlier this year, it is believed one of the backers is WA mining heir Angela Bennett. While national aspirations are not apparent they probably can’t be ruled out. It comes at a time when Primary Health Care is reeling from wobbly revenue and losing its CEO Peter Gregg.

Help for grieving

Sands WA is a not-for-profit support organisation for parents and families who experience the death of a baby. They are funded until June 2017 by the Commonwealth. Sands says every year in WA, 285 babies are stillborn or die within the first 28 days after birth and over 11,000 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Sands WA is there to help those who have experienced miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, medical termination, stillbirth or newborn death on a 24/7 helpline (1300 072 637) and also offers resources and education for healthcare professionals (www.sands.org.au).

Terminations via telehealth

We haven’t heard much from Dr Marie’s clinic in Midland, which has contract for delivering non-Catholic services for the new Midland Hospital, such as contraceptive advice. Dr Marie’s website shows they offer bulk billed “tele-abortion” for women over 16 years who request medical abortions before eight weeks gestation with certain safeguards in place. At the World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne, Darwin University’s A/Prof Suzanne Belton said telehealth abortions using tablets were a safe and effective way for Australian women to seek a termination. “It is a low-risk procedure. Very few women needed extra support at a hospital for assistance with bleeding or additional pain relief. Since September 2015, more than 1000 women have used the service which is very affordable”.

Patchy HPV uptake

The HPV immunisation rates (2014-15) for both girls and boys aged 15 have improved in the current round of reporting according to a new report from the AIHW but there is still room for improvement. The national average for girls has risen to 78.5% from 72% in 2012-13. Reporting was divided into PHN districts and Perth South registered the best overall figures of the three PHNs with 80% of girls fully immunised compared with 78.3% in Country WA and 70.2% in Perth North. Boys in Perth South exceeded the national average (67.3%) with 73.2% fully immunised and Perth North, again lagging, behind with just 62.1% while 63.3% of Country WA boys were immunised.

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