WA News Have You Heard?
Have You Heard
August 2016
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201608-DD-Jones-Frank-Dr Sep15RACGP President
Dr Frank Jones
GPs front and centre
After two years as national president of the RACGP, Mandurah GP Dr Frank Jones prepares to vacate the role in September for Tasmanian GP Dr Ben Seidel. Frank spoke to Medical Forum after the Federal Election where Medicare and General Practice were central to the campaigns of both sides of politics. He saw that as a measure of success of the College’s advocacy role which focused on putting patients and their GPs at the heart of debate. The rebate freeze was a difficult issue for the coalition, made even trickier when individual GPs and doctor groups began actively lobbying patients. “It’s noteworthy that the Health Minister was not seen or heard after she mentioned on the radio that she was sympathetic to our cause but had to be mindful of her fiscal responsibilities,” Frank told us. The freeze galvanised the membership and he believed the Good GP advertising campaign laid solid foundations for the public awareness campaign that followed. “People are now more aware of GPs and their role in the health system. Most importantly politicians know we speak on behalf of our patients, especially the vulnerable. If policies affect the quality of care I can deliver to my patients I will advocate to change them. That’s my personal view and I think that’s now the College point of view,” he said.

Headspace ructions and WA
Last month the CEO and five board members of the national youth mental health foundation Headspace resigned leaving turmoil and speculation in their wake. It comes after growing disquiet about the drop-in model’s effectiveness. It has a band of critics including John Mendoza, former CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia, who told the SMH the original intent of the service had been "perverted" and the national head office had become "obsessed with brand and marketing". We asked WAPHA, whose role it is to fund youth mental youth services here, what effect these ructions would have on WA. CEO Learne Durrington said local Headspace centres had guaranteed funding, with lead agency contracts for the 11 centres across the state renewed for between one and two years. The role of ‘funder’ for these centres had been successfully transferred to the Primary Health Networks, having transitioned from the headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation on July 1.

Avita’s nuclear preparations
Spray-on skin developer Avita Medical’s regular media update on its US contract negotiations sent down a scorcher recently with news that it had won a contract extension to help Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – part of the US health department’s disaster response network – prepare for treating burns from a nuclear explosion. We all know disaster preparedness is all in the planning but given the heightened geopolitical tensions currently it’s too easy to add 2 + 2 to get 5. However, the deal means BARDA is supporting Avita Medical’s plans to get its regenerative medicine technology approved and launched in the US. In dollar terms Avita will receive an extra $US7.96m ($A10.71m), on top of a contract worth up to $US54m agreed last year.

The Specialists’ random trial201608-The-Specialists-band BW
Who said it was all work and no play over at the Perkins Institute? On September 3 at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club rock legends The Specialists, pictured right, will be going off to raise funds for Team Perkins and its MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer. For $125 a head (no item number), you get the dance to the music of Prof Graeme Hankey (bass, vocals), Prof Peter Leedman (drums), Dr Peter England (keyboard), Dr David Borshoff (vocals, guitar), Richard Dall (vocals, sax) and Dr Steve Gordon (guitar). Book perkins.org.au/events. The serious white coat stuff happens at the Open Day on August 27.

Less hatches in despatches
Data linkage has revealed that almost one in five Aboriginal children in WA under the age of 16 had unregistered births leaving thousands with no official identity. The finding published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health linked birth records from the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to births recorded in the state’s Midwives Notification System and it showed that 4628 births to Aboriginal mothers between 1996 and 2012 weren’t recorded. PhD student Alison Gibberd’s research has wide-ranging implications as a birth certificate is fundamental for proof of identity and accessing rights such as obtaining a passport, a driver’s licence and opening bank accounts. CEO of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Ms Barbara Henry said there were a number of simple changes that would make it easier for new parents to register the birth of their child before they left hospital.

201608-Apple-stack-in-grassSneaky snacks slammed
The ACCC has come down heavily on food conglomerates Unilever and Smith's for misleading healthy food representations. Each was fined $10,800 for labelling of popular products which indicated they had been approved or suitable as healthy options for school canteens. As Megan Neeson from the WA School Canteens Association explains on P29, there is a strict code for food for sale at schools so when you see a label with a tick and “School Canteen Approved” it is reasonable to expect that’s what it is – and what Unilever’s Paddle Pop promised. On Smith’s Sakata Paws Pizza Supreme Rice Snacks it was a logo with the words “Meets School Canteen Guidelines” and an image of a sandwich and apple. In the small print were the disclaimers that the products met the ‘Amber’ criteria of the National Healthy School Canteens Guidelines. It wasn’t good enough for the ACCC.

Promo ban for formula
Still of healthy food for children, the ACCC has re-authorised an agreement between manufacturers and importers of infant formula that prohibits them from advertising and promoting formula for babies under 12 months directly to the public. This five-year agreement is designed to promote breastfeeding in Australia. Submissions ranged from limiting the life of the agreement to two years and another urged a 10-year ban.

WA overlooked
The National Health and Medical Research Council announced its Research Excellence Awards last month and no WA researcher was on the list. It can hardly be a reflection of the state’s talent pool – we know there is great work being done here. However, the research space is crowded and the funds meagre by international standards. It will no doubt cause some soul-searching in the local community and a spur for some innovative thinking.

Midland by the numbers

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