The Health News – 03 February 2014

Overview

  • The University of Wollongong has come under fire from the Australian Medical Association for pledging support to a PhD student whose research opposes Human HPV vaccination.
  • The ACT state government is receiving widespread criticism for poor management of the state’s health care needs. Recent figures have shown that Canberra Hospital is routinely forced to use emergency beds for over-capacity situations.
  • In NSW, the Member for Monaro John Barilaro has said that due to an industrial dispute, some scheduled surgeries at Queanbeyan Hospital are being rescheduled.

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Anti-vaccination storm brewing at UOW – by Emily Lawrence and Nick McLaren
The University of Wollongong has come under fire from the Australian Medical Association for pledging support to a PhD student whose research opposes HumanPV vaccination.

Last year the university paid student Judy Wilyman to attend a conference in San Francisco where she presented her paper arguing against the vaccination of young people for the virus.

The University of Wollongong’s Dean of Resarch Tim Marchant says students’ academic freedom should be upheld, despite the evidence in favour of HPV vaccinations being strong. He said
“In a university environment we uphold the principle of academic freedom for staff and students. Just because something is controversial doesn’t mean that a student shouldn’t present her viewpoint.” He also compared her research on a controversial topic to that of climate change, and said her chosen topic is completely acceptable. But Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton thinks while students should be allowed academic freedom, the university has a scientific responsibility to uphold. He said “People should be able to do anything they want to do and I agree with that, but when we have funds contributed does that undermine the university’s reputation for being a scientific institution or not? Because if a university says something the assumption is it’s science based, there are scientific methods used and it’s scientifically proven.
And where there are issues such as this where the science actually goes the other way that’s something the university needs to think about before it awards bursaries like this to students studying something that we know to be proven by good scientific method.”

Government health planning fails to meet demand: nurses union – by Anna Morozo
The ACT state government is receiving widespread criticism for poor management of the state’s healthcare needs. Recent figures have shown that Canberra Hospital is routinely forced to use emergency beds for over-capacity situations. Over 12 months ago the hospital installed 8 of the ‘surge’ beds to aid during busy periods. But as patient inflows have increased, use of these surge beds has become everyday. The hospital has been running on average at 90% capacity, meaning occupancy is much higher during peak times. Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson believes operating at this capacity level is potentially dangerous, and said “We know there are nights when essentially there are no beds. On a regular basis 98 or 99 per cent of the beds are full and the AMA [Australian Medical Association] and others say anything over 85 per cent is potentially dangerous.” Authority figures have blamed an unprecented surge in patient demand for the shortfall, but Australian Nursing Federation ACT branch secretary Jenny Miragaya thinks the government has failed to plan for an increase they should have foreseen. She said “It does concern me because these surge beds were supposed to be a plan to meet winter demand. We’ve seen the same issues happening within the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, where demand supposedly planned for 2017 was actually occurring in 2013. I’m wondering who is doing the modelling and how reliable the modelling is.” But Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says trends in this area are unpredictable. She said “At the moment in terms of bed numbers we do the best we can with the most available methodology, and then we monitor what’s happening every year. I’ve been Health Minister for long enough to realise that growth in health doesn’t seem to follow any particular trend. The Government says more beds are on the way, but Ms Miragaya says it may be time for some tough choices. We still have a problem now, and that problem needs to be addressed with innovative decisions. That may mean looking at unpalatable political decisions with regards to elective surgery. I know that they are facilitating elective surgery to be done in some of the private facilities within the ACT.

“Maybe that needs to be more readily looked at, so that they can control the available beds within the hospital by looking after the only factor that they can control.”

Monaro MP confirms Queanbeyan Hospital will have surgery delays due to pay dispute with senior doctors – by Lisa Mosey
In NSW, the Member for Monaro John Barilaro has said that due to an industrial dispute, some scheduled surgeries at Queanbeyan Hospital are being rescheduled. The hospital has lost 3 of its senior doctors because they refused to sign new contracts that would result in a 30% pay cut. The new contracts have resulted in an uproar in the medical community with many doctors and specialists saying they would rather leave the profession than sign on to the new industrial agreements, which have been called “worse than the WorkChoices contracts”.

Mr Barilaro said of the rescheduled surgeries, “Those that are of an emergency type aren’t being rescheduled. It is not what I would like to see happen, but that is the case and it’s how we’re managing this situation while this plays out. We can’t hide from it, there will definitely be some impact in the short-term and the deferrals are part of that, but I have been advised they will be very minimal and they have in place contingencies to make sure that they can continue to offer the full range of services that we currently offer.”

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