The Health News – 13 February 2014


Overview

  • The Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash yesterday told parliament that her chief-of-staff does in fact hold shares in a lobby group.
  • In South Australia, residents of the state’s south east will benefit from an extension of telehealth services.Country South SA Medicare Local says it will expand video link services to the region and will now include cardiology, gastroenterology and psychiatry consultations in Naracoorte.
  • In far north QLD, residents of Innisfail are being warned to beware of mosquitoes and breeding sites, after a case of dengue fever has been confirmed in the area.

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Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash admits chief of staff holds shares in lobby group – by Lexi Metherell
The Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash yesterday told parliament that her chief-of-staff does in fact hold shares in a lobby group which she previously said the staffer had no involvement with. The Minister originally said her chief-of-staff Alastair Furnival had previously worked for the lobby group Australian Public Affairs, which his wife is the director of, but that the group had ceased lobbying in healthcare since Mr Furnival took the role. But Penny Wong asked the Assistant Minister in parliament whether she was aware of Furnival’s involvement with the group, which is currently representing major food brands such as Cadbury and Kraft which oppose the impending nutritional labelling scheme. But the Minister denied he had any involvement with the group, and that the suggestion such an interest was behind the abrupt removal of a health department website for the new labelling scheme was unfair.

The government have claimed since the website’s removal that it was a draft page published by mistake. The minister announced her learning about her chief-of-staff’s ongoing involvement in the lobby group yesterday, saying “Prior to working for me, Mr Furnival was APA’s chairman and because of that previous position, he has a shareholding in the company. Prior to his appointment to my staff, arrangements were put in place so that his previous business activities could not conflict with his obligations under the statement of standards for ministerial staff and indeed, with my obligations as a minister.” Penny Wong questioned the minister further on the matter, and said “When and how did the Minister realise she had misled the Senate? Can the Minister explain how her chief of staff maintaining a shareholding in a lobbying company that operates in the Minister’s area of responsibility is consistent with the statement of standards for ministerial staff?”

Minister Nash insisted that her chief-of-staff fully complies with the relevant regulations and said “There is a shareholding. There is no income received. The proper processes have been followed in terms of the statement of interests.” But Labour Senator John Faulkner later said in parliament “Clause 4 of the code reads that ministerial staff must divest themselves or relinquish control of interests in any private company or business and/or direct interest in any public company involved in the area of their minister’s portfolio responsibilities…This just was not done.”

Telehealth services to expand – no author listed
In South Australia, residents of the state’s south east will benefit from an extension of telehealth services. Country South SA Medicare Local says it will expand video link services to the region and will now include cardiology, gastroenterology and psychiatry consultations in Naracoorte. CEO Lincoln Size believes better remote communication technology is vital in providing better care to rural areas. He said “Someone with a low-level anxiety and depression disorder isn’t going to feel 100 per cent to jump in car, travel two or three hundred kilometres to Adelaide or their nearest centre for a consult and then travel back again. So it was important to have the services close to home so people can access them in a timely manner.” Teleconferences with reputable cardiologist Dr Phil Tideman will be available in Naracoorte, Bordertown and Millicent shortly. Mr Size noted “More recently, Dr Tideman has noticed that about 40 per cent of his consultations are now delivered by telehealth. So it’s a nice, natural medium to use to allow again that access and equity issue where people can have timely consultations, look at their histories, lifestyles factors, without having to leave the regions.”

Dengue fever case confirmed in Innisfail – no author listed
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-12/dengue-fever-case-confirmed-in-innisfail/5254850

In far north QLD, residents of Innisfail are being warned to be aware of mosquitoes and breeding sites, after a case of dengue fever has been confirmed in the area. Public Health authorities believe confirmation of a second case very soon is likely. Director of Tropical Public Health services Dr Richard Gair says the health department should know by Friday whether this case is linked to the Cairns and Port Douglas outbreaks. There have been 74 cases of type one Dengue Fever in Far North Queensland this year. Dr Gair said of the Innisfail case “It might be an import, it might be a completely new strain. That’s what happened last year. We had seven different distinct type ones, so until we find that, until we get the genetic testing, we won’t know whether this is the same type one or a different type one. We’re removing any breeding sites for mosquitoes and we’re encouraging people in Innisfail to be aware of the fact that there is dengue transmission, to get rid of any breeding sites around their houses, unblock their gutters so there’s no water in the gutters where mosquitoes can breed and make sure they don’t get bitten by mosquitoes.” The department says it has been more than a month since a new case was recorded in Port Douglas, showing that preventative action by the community has been effective.

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