The Health News Australia September 26 2017


  • Women with breast cancer are paying thousands out-of-pocket expenses for their treatment. Women with private health insurance paid almost twice as much as women in the public healthcare system.
  • Australia endures one of its worst flu seasons in more than a decade. At least 170,000 influenza cases have been confirmed this season, more than twice the number in 2016.
  • Doctors told to reduce number of X-rays ordered for children. More attention was needed to make sure X-ray tests were used only when clinically necessary.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 26th of  September 2017. Read by Tabetha Moreto. Health News

A new report has found that privately insured women with breast cancer are paying thousands in gap fees and other out-of-pocket expenses for their treatment. The report by Deloitte Access and the Breast Cancer Network Australia surveyed more than two thousand women with breast cancer last year and found their out-of-pocket costs varied considerably. It found a quarter of patients paid more than seventeen thousand dollars and some paid more than twenty one thousand dollars in treatment costs. Women with private health insurance paid almost twice as much as women in the public healthcare system. Women without health insurance paid around three thousand six hundred dollars in out-of-pocket costs while women with private health insurance pay around seven thousand dollars for treatment in the private health system.

The report’s findings are a familiar story for Penny Power, a retired nurse and a grandmother of seven, who said she was forced to pay more than three thousand five hundred dollars in out-of-pocket fees for her breast cancer treatment. Miss Power had an operation to remove the cancerous cells but was told she had to go back in as not all the cells were removed.

Miss Power had to pay for the anaesthetist, operating theatre fees and pharmacy and other medical costs. Ten years later, Miss Power found out the cancer had returned. This time she went in as a public patient and saved thousands of dollars. If you’re about to hit your thirties and you haven’t yet got private health insurance, the time to decide is now. Kathy Wells, Breast Cancer Network Australia’s head of policy, said out-of-pocket expenses come at a time when people need it least.

As Australia endures one of its worst flu seasons in more than a decade, questions are being raised about how the public can be better prepared and what can be done to protect the most vulnerable. At least one hundred seventy thousand influenza cases have been confirmed this season, almost two-and-a-half times more than in two thousand sixteen. The federal health department logged seventy two flu-related deaths by Thursday, including that of eight-year-old Rosie Andersen in Melbourne. Experts say Australia is on track for a record number of confirmed cases.

Despite tragic cases, the spike in flu cases is a pattern that plays out globally every ten to fifteen years. The difficulty with influenza viruses is that different viruses circulate the population each year that may not be covered by current flu vaccines, and those viruses that are covered can mutate, a phenomenon known as viral drift, making the vaccinations against them less effective. Vaccines also remain effective for only one season.

Unlike other vaccines that are more than ninety five percent effective at protecting against a specific disease when a full dose is administered – for example, the chickenpox and polio ones – the flu vaccine is, on average, only forty percent protective, although this varies depending on the flu strain. By comparison, staying home from work when suffering the flu, hand-washing, and covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing protects against spreading the disease sixty eight percent of the time. Leading infectious diseases expert Doctor Peter Collignon has called for better identification of patients suffering bacterial infections secondary to the influenza virus.

Children are having too many X-rays, a campaign aimed at reducing unnecessary or inappropriate medical care has warned. Medical organisations contributed to the twenty five recommendations under the Choosing Wisely Australia campaign, bringing the total to almost one hundred sixty over the past two years. Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Paediatrics & Child Health Division president Doctor Sarah Dalton, said more attention was needed to make sure X-ray tests were used only when clinically necessary in children.

Chest X-rays have been found to significantly alter therapeutic management in as few as one in one hundred children with typical bronchiolitis and in more than ninety five per ent of cases, abdominal X-rays had little clinical significance in children presenting with non-specific abdominal pain. Another recommendation is for doctors to be wary of certifying a patient as unfit for work. President of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Associate Professor Peter Connaughton said doctors need to focus on capacity, rather than incapacity.

“We are concerned because people declared medically unfit for work often experience a range of issues including: loss of self-esteem, feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety, as well as poorer physical health and slower recovery times from their injuries.”

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