WA News Have You Heard?
Have You Heard
July 2016
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Bringing services into line
After-hours and deputising services, which to the casual observer could be described as a free-for-all, are under scrutiny from the RACGP as well as their peak body, the National Association of Medical Deputising Services (NAMDS). The College released a four-page position statement responding to the sharp rise in the use of after-hours item numbers calling for better-qualified doctors, tighter links with general practices, and a crackdown on direct-to-consumer advertising. This last point picks up on a major national TV campaign by the National Home Doctor Service. But let’s not forget the new kid on the advertising block, social media. Dial-a-Doctor has been shaking its owl tail feathers in the Facebook space with some success if our feed is anything to go by but each of the other NAMDS affiliated groups have a social media presence – Perth After Hours Medical Service, WA Deputising Medical Service and Australian Locum Medical Services. NAMDS president Ben Keneally agrees with the College that after-hours services need to work more closely with general practice adding that more recent players entering the after-hours space did not appear to be linked to general practice but instead initiated consultations directly with patients. However, he disputed the call to crack down on advertising. Mr Keneally is also head of the National Home Doctor Service. He said patients needed to be aware of after-hours services which prevented unnecessary ED presentations.

360 view of everything
Speaking of Facebook, another prominent user of social media advertising is the not-for-profit 360 Health + Community. Undertaking a Facebook quiz to find which animal represented my personality, purely for research purposes of course, 360 Health + popped up incessantly to remind me that good health was only a call away. I was so fearful that the good folk down Cockburn way might discover I was a closet wombat I exited before completing the survey. The truth is, like the internet, 360 Health + Community seems to be everywhere.

0716-Live-Online-Sports-bettingHefty fine for Bet365
In the May edition we published some sobering figures about the rise of online gambling and the potential health risks associated with it. Nearly half of non-problem gamblers bet on sports online while 70% and 71% of moderate and problem gamblers, respectively, bet online. So we read with interest a judgement from the Federal Court which fined Bet365 $2.7m for making false representations to new customers, offering them ‘free bets’. The case was brought on by the ACCC when it discovered Bet365’s promotion, between March 2013 and January 13, 2014, was misleading and deceptive and involved false representations. In order to receive the offer, new customers were required to deposit and then gamble $200 of their own money first, before they could receive their $200 free bet. The fine print was not brought to customers’ attention. Justice Beach described the company’s conduct as “serious”, “extensive” and “reckless”.

ACCC after Medibank
The ACCC has instituted proceedings against Medibank Private, alleging it contravened Australian Consumer Law by engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct. The allegations are in relation to Medibank’s failure to notify its members of its subsidiary brand, ahm, and its decision to limit benefits paid to members for in-hospital pathology and radiology services. If the Federal Court upholds the allegations, it will be a serious moment for Australia’s biggest private health insurer, which has been listed on the ASX for 18 months.

Ambos buy GP clinics
News of St John Ambulance WA buying up Apollo Health’s four bulk-billing GP clinics (Cockburn, Joondalup, Armadale and Cannington) is a bold but not entirely surprising move into the primary care space. Ambulance boss Tony Ahern, who is also on the board of the WA Primary Health Alliance, the overseeing body of the three local Primary Health Networks, said this type of service was common elsewhere in the world and had been successful in reducing ramping and lessen stress on EDs. St John put its toe in these waters during the flu season of 2013 (which he wrote about in the June edition of that year) using a GP clinic set up at Hollywood Private Hospital as the destination for non-urgent call-outs. Health Minister John Day said he wished the enterprise well while AMA spokesperson and head of ED at SCGH David Mountain was less than enthusiastic saying it could lead to confusion and put lives at risk. “They need to make these practices run I presume [at a profit], they're not taking them on to make a loss so yes, there is a concern and they need to deal with any conflict of interest to make sure there isn't an incentive for their crews to go to the wrong place,” he told the ABC.

Out of the cauldron
After two turbulent years as President of the RACGP, Dr Frank Jones’s two-year tenure has come to an end. Online elections were held in June with the declaration of the polls on June 29, after we had gone to press. Frank’s advocacy at a time when general practice was the focus of some brutal federal government policy offered the minister another forthright view to listen to. None of the four presidential candidates in this election is from WA.

0716-Embrace A4posterDocos hit the trail
Australian health campaigners are increasingly finding commercially-released documentaries a good way of getting there message out. Following the popular release of That Sugar Film, created by Damon Gameau, Adelaide body image campaigner Taryn Brumfitt’s Embrace hits the screen on August 4 in Perth. It is a film of its time. What began as a social media posting of two pictures – her competitively sculpted body and her post-baby No. 3 body – has turned into global media fodder. At the core though is the serious issue of women’s almost unanimous dissatisfaction with the way they look, of which we only scratched the surface in our May edition. Taryn has spoken to some interesting people for the doco – burns survivor Turia Pitt, Mia Freedman and US TV presenter Rikki Lake among a host of others. The trailer looks interesting and celebrity hoopla is kept to a minimum.

Midland by the numbers

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