The Health News – 16 January 2014

Overview

  • The West Wimmera Health Service of Victoria says it wants to minimise travel for staff and patients amid extreme heat.
  • Queensland pharmacists have rejected claims by doctors that they are not equipped to administer vaccines, as proposed in the upcoming trial.
  • Heart attack patients may be on the verge of a cutting-edge new treatment thanks to scientists from the University of Sydney. The research team claim to have made a breakthrough that could improve the treatment of patients by utilising a material that has been commonplace in surgeries for decades.
  • On to outback and regional Australia; doctors in the areas are maddened their patients are suffering poor health due to medication shortages, which stem from a lack of pharmacists in these areas.

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Travel ban for health staff amid heatwave – no author listed
The West Wimmera Health Service of Victoria says it wants to minimise travel for staff and patients amid extreme heat. The service has requested its practitioners and nurses not to attend appointments outside of Nhill until at least this Saturday. Patients have been encouraged to stay safe in the heat and to leave their visits until next week where possible. The service’s acting CEO, Ritchie Dodds, says the travel ban includes towns like Jeparit, Goroke, Natimuk, Rainbow and Kaniva. He said “We’ve made provision to ensure that we have engineering staff available at all of our sites in case water pumps break down etcetera, which we’ve already had a bit of experience with that, or airconditioning, so they’ll be there for at least the next three days to ensure there’s someone right on the spot in case something happens.” He said the health service want to minimise travel for health reasons as well as bush fire risks. He continued,

“If people have an appointment at Nhill that will still be happening but we’re making moves at the moment to delay or defer any appointments people would have at our outer sites such as Rainbow, Jeparit, Natimuk, Kaniva and Goroke.”

Pharmacists reject doctor criticism of flu vaccine trial – by Stephanie Small
And in QLD, pharmacists have rejected claims by doctors that they are not equipped to administer vaccines, as proposed in the upcoming trial. QLD health has authorised 100 pharmacies in the state to offer flu vaccines in the lead-up to winter. The Australian Medical Association said pharmacists are not qualified to perform the procedure and are calling for the trial to be cancelled. But QLD pharmacists assert it is a safe and common-sense move that could improve vaccination numbers. President of the AMA Steve Hambleton spoke out against the planned trial yesterday, saying “Immunisation is a clinical service; it should be done in the clinical setting. It’s well done in a general practice. It shouldn’t be done in a room full of toothpaste and toilet paper.” But Professor Lisa Nissen of the Pharmaceutical Association of Australia was quick to respond, “You don’t need a medical degree to give an injection or to manage anaphylaxis; you need to understand what the appropriate management is and pharmacists will have appropriate first aid training, CPR training and management in giving adrenalin and managing that anaphylaxis. So as health professionals, pharmacists will be able to manage that situation.” George Tambassis, president of the Pharmacy Guild of Aus, implores he and his fellow pharmacists are completely capable of administering these vaccines, saying “

STEPHANIE SMAIL: George Tambassis is a pharmacist and the national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and said “We’re a healthcare professional, we certainly understand what the medications are all about and certainly have the background to understand where any side effects or issues that may arise.” He says he and his fellow pharmacists are perfectly capable of taking on the new role. Premier Campbell Newman also voiced his support:

“If you go to New Zealand, to Canterbury for example, the Canterbury health system at Christchurch, you will see far greater involvement by pharmacists, by the paramedics and the ambulances and the GP’s health system is not just about the hospital.”

Sydney scientists claim heart attack breakthrough – by Tom Nightingale
Heart attack patients may be on the verge of a cutting-edge new treatment thanks to scientists from the University of Sydney. The research team claim to have made a breakthrough that could improve the treatment of patients by utilising a material that has been commonplace in surgeries for decades. In trials on mice, the researchers used micro particles similar to those used in dissolvable stitches to reduce the level of inflammation following a heart attack. Professor Nicholas King and Daniel Getts, co-leaders of the study, said of the initial trial “My first response was that somehow the experiment had gone wrong, but after he’d done it several times and we got exactly the same result we knew we were really onto something.” Following an attack, the heart muscle is usually damaged by inflamatory cells targeting the area deprived of oxygen. In the study, the researches injected microparticles into the bloodstream of the mice to prevent the inflammatory cells from reaching and damaging the heart. Professor King said “What we’ve managed to do with this approach is actually prevent these cells from coming in and this reduces the scar, but more importantly it increases the function of the heart as a result of that… We think that it has a potential to be very significant. But inevitably we have to acknowledge that the human is not a mouse. However, if we can translate this into a human in the same way as it translates in a mouse, then there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it will transform our approach to myocardial infarction, to heart attacks, in short.”

Rural doctors say patients’ access to medicines is not good enough – by Natalie Whiting
On to outback and regional Australia; doctors in the areas are maddened their patients are suffering poor health due to medication shortages, which stem from a lack of pharmacists in these areas. Sickness and injury statistics are higher for these populations compared to metropolitan areas. The National Rural Health Alliance has released a paper urging for more to be done to attract pharmacists to these areas. Chairman of the alliance, Tim Kelly, said “The distribution of pharmacists reflects those of many other health professionals, half the number of pharmacists per head of population in remote areas when compared to metropolitan.” The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the government’s main financial scheme for providing access to medicines, has a far lower uptake in regional and rural areas compared to metropolitan. Dr Kelly continued “…the paper sort of raises the related points, that it’s not just setting PBS access; it’s a very blunt instrument for assessing rural and remote people access to the health services of pharmacists, which is far and beyond prescribing, prescription medicines. And that includes access to advice, clinical advice in pharmacy, which is a key role for a pharmacist. But also provision of scheduled pharmacy medicine, which is part of health care, which is not picked up in PBS statistics.”

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