The Health News – 14 January 2014

Overview

  • India’s government has said that stopping new cases of polio is a landmark achievement. The government’s vaccination program has resulted in no new polio cases in over 3 years.
  • It’s hoped that a new alliance between 3 of the Hunter Valley’s largest healthcare providers will increase quality of care for people in the region living with chronic illness.
  • A Bathurst psychiatrist says Dubbo is about to lose the services of three mental health experts due to the of travel expense payments by the Western Local Health District.
  • Concerns over declining immunisation rates for South-East Queensland children have sparked the launch of a new Australian-first health program.
  • The NSW state government will ban cigarette smoking in apartment and unit housing after a recent study found smoking increases health risks for all occupants.

Health News on HPR.

India nearly polio free but Pakistan lags – by Michael Edwards
India’s government has said that stopping new cases of polio is a landmark achievement. The government’s vaccination program has resulted in no new polio cases in over 3 years. This means India is now considered by many as polio-free, but conversely, close neighbour Pakistan has seen a recent spike in infections. As recently as 2009, India was responsible for almost half of polio cases globally. The progress made over this time has been lauded by the international health community as an impressive achievement. Dr Mata Manabde, World Health Organisation representative to India, said “To think India has  not seen a new case of the polio virus in 3 years is amazing, compared to 1995 when the eradication program was just starting to move, we were still having more than 200,000 cases annually.” But in Pakistan, militants have been angered by the use of an anti-polio campaign to find Osama bin Laden, and have killed health workers and prevented hundreds of thousands from accessing vaccines. This has resulted in the recent spike in polio in the country, but also more vigilant action from anti-polio activists. “We are very vigilant about this in our neighbour Pakistan, a number of vaccines have been sent to the border of Pakistan but are also for use by our neighbours Nepal, Bangladesh and others”.

Major Hunter healthcare providers sign alliance, a first for the region – no author listedIt’s hoped that a new alliance between 3 of the Hunter Valley’s largest healthcare providers will increase quality of care for people in the region living with chronic illness. Hunter New England Health, Hunter Medicare Local and the owners of Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital have today formed ‘The Hunter Alliance’. Spokesman Michael Hensley says the partnership will focus on 3 key areas – care in the last 12 months of life, care for people with diabetes, and care for people with chronic breathing difficulties. Professor Hensley says it will mean centralisation of patient information and therefore better care management. He said, “The Hunter Alliance is a new partnership between three of the major healthcare providers in the Hunter to work together and to do better for the people of the Hunter. In particular, by combining our skills and our fantastic staff to do something that we can’t do as individual institutions.”

Professor Hensley says other chronic illnesses may be considered in future.

He said “(There’s a) need for a higher level of co-ordination of information. So it’s risen out of some problems that we’ve seen in looking after patients, particularly with chronic illness. The three organisations believe that by working together we can improve the quality of care, and we can also do that more efficiently.”

Axing of travel payment blamed for Doctor losses – no author listed
A Bathurst psychiatrist says Dubbo is about to lose the services of three mental health experts due to the of travel expense payments by the Western Local Health District. The WLHD announced the move in December, endeavouring to counteract the department’s 20 million dollar budget blowout last financial year. Doctor Andrew Frukacz says he understands the Health District’s monetary concerns, but says its claims frontline health services would be unaffected are incorrect. Doctor Frukacz says from the end of the month, he’ll no longer visit Dubbo.
“There is another psychiatrist who has given a great deal of service to the local area, over 16 years, who has also unfortunately decided to cease going to Dubbo as of the end of the month,” he said. He added, “This is where it becomes quite concerning, particularly in regards to the claims by the bureaucracy, that front line services won’t be affected. This is particularly in the case of psychiatry where the relationship the patient has with their psychiatrist is of extreme importance. There’s a trust that develops that is important in allowing people to talk about very personal issues.” Dr Frukacz says patients in Dubbo will feel the impact.

Home visits a shot in the arm for vaccination program – by Courtney Wilson
Concerns over declining immunisation rates for South-East Queensland children have sparked the launch of a new Australian-first health program. Recent data indicates Logan City, south of Brisbane, has some of the lowest immunisation numbers in Queensland, but authorities hope to affect change by reaching out to new mothers in their homes. In-home services are being offered to eligible families in Logan. Gillian Hermosilla, a nurse immuniser with Logan City council, said “We started this program because we knew that our rates in certain suburbs were low and that we needed to do something to try and fix that problem.” In Qld, over 90% of children aged 1 to 5 are fully immunised, but recent studies have shown parts of the population in Logan had fallen far below. Other areas with below-par immunisation rates include Kingston and Underwood. Hermosilla explained further,  “We did a lot of research into why we had some lower rates in our community and we discovered that factors relating to transport or multiple children, or even recent operations like a caesarean for twins or anything like that, they were all indicators that people would have difficulties accessing immunisation services on time.”

Newcastle study into second-hand smoke triggers law reform – no author listed
The NSW state government will ban cigarette smoking in apartment and unit housing after a recent study found smoking increases health risks for all occupants.
University of Newcastle’s Associate Professor Billie Bonevski said over 160,000 people, aged 45 and above, participated in the state-wide survey.

She says more than 12,000 people, including 8,000 non-smokers, were exposed to smoke inside their dwellings for up to 8 hours a day.

Associate Professor Bonevski says that reforms being introduced this year are important given the risk to non-smokers. She said “They’re aware of their exposure to other people’s smoke, but there’s not an awful lot they could do about it. This research was picked up by the CEO of a lobby group, Ash Australia, who took it to Government and it’ has resulted in legislative changes which will restrict smoking in common areas.” Associate Professor Bonevski says many Government-subsidised buildings were occupied by socially disadvantaged persons.

“People from lower socio-economic groups tend to be more exposed to other people’s smoke, both at homes and at other places,” she said.