The Health News – 11 February 2016

Overview:
• During an interview on ABC Radio National, Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley insists the Government is not privatising Medicare but is only looking at ways to bring the payments system into the “21st century”.

• According to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the 2016 Closing the Gap report shows there has been no progress in raising the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

• Two families of stillborn babies delivered at the Bacchus Marsh hospital have received compensation payouts from Victoria’s insurer for the psychological trauma they suffered after losing their babies.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 11th February 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-10/sussan-ley-says-government-not-privatising-medicare/7155440

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley insists the Government is not privatising Medicare but is only looking at ways to bring the payments system into the “21st century”.

Ms Ley’s department has set up a taskforce to consider the “commercial provision of health and aged care payment services”.

“We’re not privatising Medicare… but shouldn’t taxpayers demand we step into the 21st century when it comes to the payment system?” Ms Ley told ABC Radio National.

“I want to see less dollars for that backroom bureaucracy and more dollars at the frontline for payments.”

Health Department Secretary Martin Bowles told a Senate estimates hearing the 30-year-old payments system was outdated and needed to be “revitalised” through technology.

He insisted the taskforce was still exploring options and no decision on whether to outsource or not had been made.

But Mr Bowles conceded the department probably would not be the most innovative.

He stressed the taskforce was engaging consultants to look solely at the Medicare payments system and not health services.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-10/indigenous-life-expectancy-has-not-improved-closing-the-gap/7154566

The annual report card on Indigenous disadvantage has been handed down, and the results, in the words of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, are mixed.

There has been no progress in raising the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the 2016 Closing the Gap report shows.

“The life expectancy gap is still around 10 years, an unacceptably wide gap, and this target is not on track,” Mr Turnbull told Parliament on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister said his government would redouble its efforts to engage with Indigenous Australians.

The eighth annual Closing the Gap report said progress had been varied across the seven education, employment and health targets.

The latest Closing the Gap report shows the Government is not making progress in many areas of Indigenous disadvantage.

The report cautioned that meeting the target to close the life expectancy gap by 2030 remained “a significant challenge”.

But Mr Turnbull said there was reason to be optimistic, given that two objectives were on track: the target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018, and a target to improve Year 12 attainment by 2020.

Between 1998 and 2014, Indigenous child death rates declined by 33 per cent.

Mr Shorten used his Closing the Gap parliamentary address to mount a renewed push to convince the Government to commit to a target for reducing Indigenous imprisonment rates.

Indigenous Australians make up about 3 per cent of the Australian population but 26 per cent of the prison population.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-10/families-of-bacchus-marsh-babies-awarded-compensation/7154356

Two families of stillborn babies delivered at the Bacchus Marsh hospital have received compensation payouts from Victoria’s insurer.

The confidential settlements follow an investigation by eminent obstetrician Professor Euan Wallace, who found the deaths of seven babies at the hospital in 2013 and 2014 could have been avoidable.

The settlement was paid by the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority, which covers public hospitals.

Professor Wallace’s review found the perinatal mortality rate at the hospital was significantly higher than the state average and much higher than expected for a “low-risk” unit.

He also identified misuse or misinterpretation of foetal heart rate monitors by “inadequately skilled” staff and a lack of “high-quality staff education” as key problems.

Head of medical negligence at Maurice Blackburn Kathryn Booth said the two families had been awarded compensation for the psychological trauma they suffered after losing their babies.