- Federal Government officials have confirmed for the first time that key allies have asked Australia to send medical teams to West Africa to help combat the Ebola crisis.
- Liver experts at a conference on the Gold Coast have been warned Australia is on the verge of a catastrophic death spiral from Hepatitis C.
- A team of doctors who helped a paralysed man walk again are seeking new patients so they can establish their breakthrough was not a one-off.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 24th October 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Federal Government officials have confirmed for the first time that key allies have asked Australia to send medical teams to West Africa to help combat the Ebola crisis.
Foreign Affairs officials today revealed the United States and the United Kingdom had made direct requests for Australian support. Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the countries at the centre of the outbreak, have also asked for help.
The first request from the US government was made last month and was for an Australian liaison officer, but has since been expanded to include health workers as well.
The United Kingdom also asked Australia to provide support personnel to help deal with the Ebola crisis, in addition to funding.
The Government has so far refused to send health workers to Africa, arguing that it would be unable to evacuate them if they became infected with the deadly virus.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged the requests, but insisted the security of “our people” was paramount to any final decision.
Government officials have been asking a number of countries if they would be willing to help treat Australian workers if they became infected with the deadly virus – including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the European Commission.
No blanket guarantee has been offered, but DFAT head Peter Varghese indicated there had been positive talks in recent days.
The Government has meanwhile appointed one of the country’s leading doctors, infectious disease expert Professor Lyn Gilbert, to be Australia’s Ebola tsar, tasked with the job of overseeing the response to the epidemic.
Liver experts at a conference on the Gold Coast have been warned Australia is on the verge of a catastrophic death spiral from Hepatitis C.
Dr Miriam Levy, the director of gastroenterology at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital, told the conference the recent decision by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) to refuse subsidies for a breakthrough treatment for Hepatitis C had effectively delivered a death sentence to up to 50,000 Australians who would die from the disease in the next few years.
Australia is the only developed country in the world that has not agreed to subsidise the new $70,000 treatment for Hepatitis C for the most seriously ill patients.
The PBAC argued the costs were too high to treat Australia’s 250,000 Hepatitis C sufferers and promised to review the decision in a year, when drug companies came back with a better price.
But Dr Levy said while 80 per cent of Australia’s sufferers can probably afford to wait a few years until cheaper treatments become available, those who were already heading towards liver failure need the treatment now.
Morag Goodinson is a nurse practitioner who only discovered she had the virus three years ago.
She said the prospect of not getting access to the new treatment for at least four years was excruciating.
The message, she said, is that the Government has deemed her life not worth the cost of the treatment.
A team of doctors who helped a paralysed man walk again are seeking new patients so they can establish their breakthrough was not a one-off.
Polish man Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down after being stabbed in the back by his partner’s ex-husband in 2010, can now walk with the aid of a frame after doctors transplanted cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.
“For the next stages of our research we’ll need patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury caused by a sharp object, like a knife, or a machete,” said Wlodzimierz Jarmundowicz, a neurosurgeon from Wroclaw, western Poland, who was part of the team that treated Mr Fidyka.
“The little light bulb at the end of the tunnel has gone on but we need to repeat the procedure on two or three patients and we’ll see,” Mr Jarmundowicz told a news conference in Wroclaw.
The doctors plan to set up a website in Polish and another in English to advertise for volunteers.
The technique, described as a breakthrough by a study in the journal Cell Transplantation, involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient’s spinal cord and constructing a “nerve bridge” between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.
The pioneering research was led by Geoffrey Raisman, a professor at University College London’s institute of neurology, who worked with surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital.
However, specialists in the field have cautioned that success with one patient is not enough to conclude that the treatment could be of wider benefit.
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