The Health News – 5 May 2016

Overview:
• Scott Morrison’s first budget will see the Federal Government save $51.4 million over the next four years by removing or amending items it pays rebates for on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). He also announced a plan to continue the pause on indexation for Medicare rebates, estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.

• A second nurse has told an inquest into a psychiatric patient's suicide at the Royal Adelaide Hospital that he did not make a comprehensive ward check before the patient was found unconscious and rushed to intensive care.

• A report by the WA Cancer Taskforce in June last year found the axing of the positions contributed to a "dysfunctional approach to cancer care" and compromised patient safety. In September, Health Minister Kim Hames accepted a recommendation to "urgently reinstate the specialist cancer nurses at Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital and in regional areas.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  5th of May 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-03/budget-2016-medicare-benefits-schedule-overhauled/7380580

Scott Morrison’s first budget will see the Federal Government save $51.4 million over the next four years by removing or amending items it pays rebates for on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

In a move that will be unpopular with medical groups, Mr Morrison also announced a plan to continue the pause on indexation for Medicare rebates, estimated to save the Government $925 million over the four-year forward estimates.

This continues the fee freeze until 2019-20.

Also in the firing line are so-called flexible funds for a range of health organisations.

The Government will maintain the pause on indexation for these funds, saving it $182 million over three years.

There are some winners, in particular some new items added to the MBS.

The Government has allocated $33.8 million for new retinal photography equipment that will help diagnose patients with diabetic retinopathy in regional and rural areas.

A further $3 million is being set aside for new rebates on MRI scans for breast cancer.

The amendments to the MBS and Veterans’ Benefits include:

  • the consolidation of 57 skin service items;
  • streamlining existing skin patch testing items and adding new items to test for a greater number of allergens on one occasion; and
  • restricting the co-claiming of specific items for the treatment of varicose veins where clinically appropriate.

The authority that regulates drugs and supplements, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will get a boost of $20.4 million to increase regulation.

Health experts say many of the budget measures will mean patients are worse-off.

Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells said the Government’s move to freeze Medicare rebates over the next three years could potentially increase the pressure on GPs to drop bulk billing and charge additional fees.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-04/suicide-inquest-ross-alcock-rah/7384114

A second nurse has told an inquest into a psychiatric patient’s suicide at the Royal Adelaide Hospital that he did not make a comprehensive ward check before the patient was found unconscious and rushed to intensive care.

Ross Matthew Alcock, 22, was in an acute ward in early 2014 while suffering from paranoid delusions and psychosis and had been assessed as being at high risk of self-harm, so was supposed to be checked half-hourly.

The man was found unconscious in his room and rushed to intensive care, where he died the following day.

Mental health nurse John Leopold told the coroner he checked on the patient at 6:30pm but had not gone into the room itself, then checked again at 7:00pm and the man seemed not to be there.

At 7:10pm, Mr Alcock was found unconscious and partially inside a wardrobe in his room.

The court heard Mr Leopold had been nearing the end of a busy 12-hour shift.

Questioned by counsel assisting the coroner, Amy Cacas, the nurse admitted he had not gone into the man’s room to make a thorough check.

Earlier, the court heard from a registered nurse that he had not made required checks of the patient because he was fairly new to that ward and had not understood his responsibilities.

The psychiatric ward was closed a year ago and Royal Adelaide mental health patients are now sent to available beds at other facilities.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-04/cancer-nursing-positions-still-vacant-after-damning-report/7381314

Specialist cancer nurse positions at Western Australia’s major hospitals remain vacant six months after the Health Minister agreed to reinstate them, following damning findings by a taskforce investigation.

A report by the WA Cancer Taskforce in June last year found the axing of the positions contributed to a “dysfunctional approach to cancer care” and compromised patient safety.

In September, Health Minister Kim Hames accepted a recommendation to “urgently reinstate the specialist cancer nurses at Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital and in regional areas”.

But six months later, the positions remain unfilled.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) WA branch president Michael Gannon said that was unacceptable.

“These are nurses who have developed specific expertise in helping these patients through and what we must never see, when we talk about belt tightening, is cuts to genuine frontline services in the health system,” he said.

The Department of Health set a 12-week deadline for implementing the recommendation by the end of February, but has confirmed that has been revised to at least October.

It has attributed the delay to the Government-imposed hiring freeze.

Dr Gannon said the Minister needed to take the matter up with the Treasurer, and free up the funds to fill the positions.

In a statement, Health Minister John Day said he had requested a progress report on implementation of the WA Cancer Taskforce recommendations.

Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook said the recommendation should have been implemented by now.

Mr Cook said the recruitment freeze imposed by the Government was no excuse.