The Health News – 10 February 2014

Overview

  • In Far North Queensland, hundreds of local doctors have voted against the individual work contracts currently proposed by the state government.
  • Another case of measles has been reported after a traveller returning to Darwin from the Philippines contracted the virus.
  • A report has found that Western Australia employs more overseas doctors than anywhere else in the country, and need 950 new doctors to fill existing vacancies.
  • The federal health department has been the subject of speculation regarding its taking down of a new website designed to help consumers understand the new front-of-package nutritional labels on food and beverages.

Health News on HPR.

Doctors reject individual contracts push – by Kristy Sexton-McGrath
In Far North Queensland, hundreds of local doctors have voted against the individual work contracts currently proposed by the state government. The Together Union met with doctors in Cairns and Townsville last week, many of whom oppose the individual contracts so strongly that they will consider work in other states. Dr Sandy Donald of the Together Union said the introduction of these contracts would unacceptably see doctors lose their protection from unfair dismissal, and potentially lose over 30% of their wages. Dr Donald said “Talking to the registrars that have just moved on from Cairns, virtually every single one of them is looking actively interstate and overseas for jobs. So the New Zealand Medical Association has issued an employment warning for Queensland. The Australian Society of Emergency Medicine has issued an employment warning. The Government has said it wants everyone to sign them by the 30th of July and undoubtedly will put unbearable pressure on management to force doctors to sign it but it’s unclear what happens. Certainly it looks like doctors who don’t sign will lose possibly a third of their income.”

Medical alert as more cases of measles reported – no author listed
Another case of measles has been reported after a traveller returning to Darwin from the Phillipines contracted the virus. The Northern Territory department of health said it’s the 19th case of the easily-transmitted disease in the region in the past 3 weeks. The health department issued a statement warning passengers on the flight who are not ‘measles-immune’ should check for signs and symptoms of the disease. The Northern Territory Centre for Disease Control said the outbreak has spread to Katherine, with 2 new cases reported in the town 300km south of Darwin.

Dr Vicki Krause from the disease control centre said “This is the most number of cases of measles we have had for some years. It does make us somewhat concerned about the vaccine coverage in our general population. Most young people are actually fairly well covered. Parents should be checking their children’s immunisation records.” Dr Krause said that around a third of measles cases result in complications, so people must be on the lookout for the tell-tale symptoms of a blotchy rash, fever and running nose.

WA employs more overseas doctors than any other state – by Kathryn Diss
A report has found that Western Australia employs more overseas doctors than anywhere else in the country, and need 950 new doctors to fill existing vacancies. Author of the report, Felicity Jeffries, former head of the WA country health service, said “The key findings were rather alarming, in summary we have a shortage of medical practitioners, we’re not training enough and we rely really heavily on overseas trained doctors. Western Australia on average has fewer medical practitioners per head of population than any other state in Australia, we also have more overseas trained doctors than any other state.” 38% of WA medical practitioners are trained overseas, compared with an average of 26% for the rest of the country. Dr Jeffries says that there are around 70 fewer medical graduates per year in WA than other states.

Curtin University commissioned Dr Jefferies to carry out the report to gauge whether more students in the state need medical training. Dr Jeffries said “It shows where Western Australia sits compared to the rest of Australia and I think it’s important as a community we understand that.”

Health star rating website for food and beverages disappears 24 hours after being published online – by Amy Bainbridge
The federal health department has been the subject of speculation regarding its taking down of a new website designed to help consumers understand the new front-of-package nutritional labels on food and beverages. The website appeared to be without fault, and health groups applauded the move, but the site was taken down less than 24 hours after going live. A spokesperson for the Health Department said that a draft version of the site was mistakenly published and then taken down, but industry experts like Public Health Association CEO Michael Moore have said that even if it was a draft, it was accurate and didn’t need to be removed. This is the latest in many issues marring the introduction of the new labelling scheme, which the Australian Food and Grocery Council says will cost $200m to implement.

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