The Health News – 22 April 2014

Overview

  • In South Australia, a surge in influenza cases has been reported. The state’s Health Minister Jack Snelling is urging people to get their vaccinations.
  • The Federal Government is considering contracting independent medical experts to examine disability pensioners and assess their eligibility for payments.
  • In Tasmania, the state government has given no indication as to when construction work for the Royal Hobart Hospital will resume.

South Australians urged to get vaccinated after surge in flu cases reported – no author listed
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-20/surge-in-flu-cases-reported-in-south-australia/5400446

In South Australia, a surge in influenza cases has been reported. The state’s Health Minister Jack Snelling is urging people to get their vaccinations. The South Australian Government says flu cases have risen more than 40% on this period last year. 511 cases have reported this year.

The health minister pointed out the rise could be due to a late peak in last year’s flu season, but also that there are also early signs the virus may be more severe than usual. He said “That’s why it’s more important than ever for people to get a flu shot. Everyone we would recommend get a flu shot, but particularly those with chronic illness and the elderly … both of which groups can get their flu shots for free.” The health minister’s announcement comes during a national advertising campaign targeting patients with pre-existing medical conditions. Alan Hampson from Influenza Specialist Group recently said that Australia’s flu vaccine would prevent the strain circulating this season, and that “You have to formulate the vaccine six months ahead, and so we have a wide network of laboratories around the world that analyse the strains in a very scientific way to determine which ones are the evolving viruses. Sometimes they may get a little bit ahead of you by the time the vaccine is released. But this year the WHO has just made it’s formal decisions for the next Northern Hemisphere winter, and … it’s exactly the same as our vaccine that’s being released at the moment. In other words our vaccine, we’re quite confident, is totally up to date, in terms of all the viruses we’ve seen around the world.”

Independent doctors could be called in to reassess disability pensioners, Federal Government says – no author listed
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-20/disability-pensioners-may-be-reassessed-kevin-andrews/5400598

The Federal Government is considering contracting independent medical experts to examine disability pensioners and assess their eligibility for payments.

Family doctors presently provide information that supports claims for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). However, minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews is weighing up the possibility of tasking independent doctors with the job. He said “We are concerned that where people can work, the best form of welfare is work. We want to help people to be able to stay in work wherever possible.”

At the moment around 830,000 Australians receive the funding, with approximately 1000 new patients signing on each week. A single person over 21 can claim a maximum of $766 per fortnight on the scheme. The social services minister says the cost of funding the DSP will rise from the current $15 billion per year to $18 billion by FY 2016-17.

He says reassessing all patients would be inefficient but a more targeted effort to return people to work may help the issue. He said “We are not aimed at the great bulk of people on the DSP. It’s really looking at whether or not particularly younger people – say under the age of 30 or 35 – who prospectively might go on to the DSP, if we can keep them in work. We know that’s a better outcome for them and, overall, a saving for the taxpayer.” But a lobby group for disabled people has called the proposed changes unfair. President of People With Disabilities Craig Wallace said “The move is at a time when people are meant to be spending time with their families,” he said.

And Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes says the changes would negatively impact already people already struggling, and said “If you look at the level of Centrelink fraud, it’s very small in this area. I wouldn’t like to say that there’d be no cases, but I think that there would be very few, if there are any.”

Hobart hospital redevelopment lags despite push for upgrade – no author listed
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-18/halt-to-royal-hobart-hospital-redevelopment-puts-building-works/5399284

In Tasmania, the state government has given no indication as to when construction work for the Royal Hobart Hospital will resume. Federal politicans are asking for a move to show commitment to timely completion of the project. The Health Minister Michael Ferguson has only said he is seeking urgent advice on the matter. The plans to upgrade the state’s main hospital have been underway for over 10 years. Little progress has been made since the federal government’s $340 million contribution to the overhaul made 4 years ago. The project is reportedly at least 2 years behind schedule, which the current Liberal state government blame on the previous Labor party. A temporary hold has been put on demolition works which were due to begin this week. The Independent member for Denison Andrew Wilkie says they need to be back at work soon. He said “They need to deliver this in full, because this is the hospital we need.”

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