The Health News – 05 October 2015

• An air strike on an Afghan hospital that has killed 19 people, and is suspected to be from NATO forces, is ‘inexcusable and possibly even criminal’, the United Nations says.Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the trauma centre in the city of Kunduz was “hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged”.

• A “radical” back-to-basics approach by providing health care to children visiting homeless centres would result in fewer medical complications later in life, according to Dr Yvonne Parry researchers at Flinders University.

• There has been a spike in infections at the Royal Hobart Hospital, with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) saying it is worried about an increase in reported cases of vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE) at the facility. The AMA said there were 26 cases reported this quarter compared with two for the same quarter last year.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 6th October 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.

There has been a significant jump in the number of codeine-related deaths in Australia, new research has revealed.

A study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found fatalities involving the pain medicine more than doubled between 2000 and 2009.

The deaths increased from 53 in 2000 to more than 155 in 2009.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Stephen Parnis said many of the deaths were caused when patients were on several strong pain medications.

“We have people on multiple medications because it actually does improve a number of chronic problems and averts things getting worse and keeps them alive and well,” he said.

“But the problem is the more drugs you are on, the more interactions you have. That is a challenge for doctors, let alone patients who have less of an understanding of medications.”

Report author Amanda Roxburgh, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said the biggest increase was in the number of accidental overdoses.

“Of the 1,437 deaths in the study, just under half were attributed to accidental overdose,” Ms Roxburgh said.

Many of the patients who died were taking other drugs including alcohol, and other strong pain killers that act on the central nervous system.

“Those who accidentally overdosed were more likely to have a history of substance use problems, chronic pain and injecting drug use,” Ms Roxburgh said.

People who use codeine-based pain medications for long periods can develop dependence on the drug.

It can also lead to gastrointestinal disease and liver toxicity.

Dr Parnis said mitigating those risks involved improving both doctor and patient education.

The Federal Government’s medicines regulator — the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) — has been considering whether to reclassify drugs such as Nurofen Plus or Panadeine Extra because of the risk of harm, addiction or overdose.

The interim report from its Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling recommends making codeine-based products prescription-only from June next year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are becoming more comfortable about discussing mental health, a Mount Gambier health organisation says.

And while the sector struggles to find trained Aboriginal health professionals, Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Health Service’s new chief executive, David Copley, says times are changing.

He said communities were no longer as afraid of the stigma of mental health as they were in the past.

“It’s something that we don’t talk about openly as a community and we haven’t in the past but we are getting better at it,” he said.

“The more open it becomes in mainstream, the more open it will become in Aboriginal cultures.”

The Kaurna Peramangk man is the only male Indigenous mental health nurse in South Australia.

He said the health service is better equipped to service the south-east community after a senior social worker recently gained additional qualifications.

This now enables doctors to address mental health referrals to the facility.

“It also gives us somebody who’s aware of the cultural needs, has worked in the area and now has the qualifications to say to mainstream, ‘hey, if you’re having trouble referring, make us a first stop for Aboriginal people, because we have the expertise’.”

Mr Copley said it took a long time to support his staff members through cultural, vocational, mental health and family skills training.

He said despite the lengthy process and red tape, he hoped more of his staff would gain similar qualifications.

Mr Copley said many Aboriginal people did not deal with their mental health issues because they had withdrawn from seeing “mainstream” doctors.

He said many people were looking for culturally appropriate care from practitioners who understood the causes of mental health issues for Aboriginal people.

Mental Health Week is a national event, held to coincide with World Mental Health Day (10 October), and in Western Australia, it will run from 2 – 10 October, 2015.

It’s an opportunity to promote awareness about mental health and wellbeing, and equip people with the right information. This year, … the Act-Belong-Commit message [is] the official theme for Mental Health Week.

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