The Health News – 18 November 2016

Overview:
•  Across the country, the number of GP visits being bulk-billed has declined as fewer doctors make the free consultations available and patients avoid medical care due to out-of-pocket expenses. The Commonwealth Department of Health revealed in the September quarter the GP bulk-billing rate in Tasmania fell to 74 per cent from 76.4 per cent in the previous three months.

• The Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report says despite some positive trends, the plight of Indigenous Australians has “stagnated or worsened” in critical areas of wellbeing.

• Voluntary euthanasia has been knocked back in South Australian Parliament for the 15th time after a marathon late session in the House of Assembly. The Death with Dignity bill from Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge was examined clause by clause and a conscience vote was tied at 23 votes for and against.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  18th of November 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-17/tasmanias-bulk-billing-rate-falls-fastest-in-country/8032536

Bulk-billing rates in Tasmania have fallen faster than in any other part of the country, and will continue to drop until the Medicare rebate freeze is lifted, a GP has warned.

Across the country, the number of GP visits being bulk-billed has declined as fewer doctors make the free consultations available and patients avoid medical care due to out-of-pocket expenses.

New figures showed that since the July Federal election, which allowed the Coalition to continue the GP rebate freeze until 2020, the fall in Tasmania’s bulk-billing rate was the biggest of any state or territory.

The Commonwealth Department of Health revealed in the September quarter the GP bulk-billing rate in Tasmania fell to 74 per cent from 76.4 per cent in the previous three months.

That is almost five times the national drop of 0.5 per cent (from 84.6 to 84.1 per cent).

Claremont GP Graeme Alexander said there were several reasons why Tasmanians were feeling the sting of the freeze.

Dr Alexander said patients often avoided seeing a GP because of the cost and general practices struggled to stay viable.

“The Royal College of General Practitioners has really warned about this development over the last year,” he said.

“And, unfortunately, now we are seeing the implications.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-17/indigenous-welbeing-focus-of-productivity-commission-report/8031922

Indigenous Australians are becoming more disadvantaged, with alarming increases in imprisonment rates, mental health problems and self harm, according to a damning Productivity Commission report …

The commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report says despite some positive trends, the plight of Indigenous Australians has “stagnated or worsened” in critical areas of wellbeing.

Among the findings, the national Indigenous imprisonment rate has surged by 77 per cent over the past 15 years and the hospitalisation rate for self harm is up by 56 per cent over the past decade.

The report points to a failure of policy and oversight, with the commission estimating only 34 of 1,000 Indigenous programs are been properly evaluated by authorities.

Productivity Commission deputy chair Karen Chester told the ABC’s … the findings are a wake-up call for all levels of government about the reality of Indigenous wellbeing and whether the $30 billion budget is being properly spent.

The report is being billed by the commission as “compulsory reading” and the most comprehensive report on Indigenous wellbeing undertaken in Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were involved in the study, which was produced by the Productivity Commission for a review into government service provision.

Despite the disturbing assessment, a number of case studies have been highlighted where good governance is contributing to the success of Indigenous organisations.

These include … the Marius Project in the northern Victoria[n] town of Swan Hill.

The report says areas of health, economic participation, life expectancy and aspects of education have improved from the update two years ago, with child mortality rates narrowing between 1998 and 2014.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-16/voluntary-euthanasia-debate-in-south-australia-goes-to-committee/8031776

Voluntary euthanasia has been knocked back in South Australian Parliament for the 15th time after a marathon late session in the House of Assembly …[on Wednesday night]

The bill initially passed a second reading stage with a vote of 27 to 19, leading to a debate that continued up until about 4:00am [Thursday morning].

But the Death with Dignity bill from Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge was examined clause by clause and a conscience vote was tied at 23 votes for and against.

Speaker Michael Atkinson then used his casting vote to decide against the bill and end the debate.

He told 891 ABC Adelaide that he was disappointed that SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall pushed to have the bill decided in the early hours of the morning.

He said the clause in the amendments were defeated because they were considered by a “group of sleepless and irritable MPs for hours and hours until 4:00am”.

“Duncan McFetridge had a very bad six hours in which he was unable to answer most of the questions about this bill,” Mr Atkinson said.

“If someone else had been put in charge of the bill, if it had been considered during daylight hours, clause by clause in a patient and sophisticated way, over several days, it may have been carried.

Mr McFetridge, however, rejected that as a reason for the bill’s defeat.

He said the debate was not over, but a fresh impetus may come from over the border.

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