The Health News – 29 March 2016

Overview:
• All elective surgery at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) was cancelled during the Easter break after a number of incidents that the health union has blamed on understaffing.

• Strong new drugs have been publicly subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme since March 1, leading experts to think hepatitis C could be wiped out within years.

• Combing through soil for human remains, conducting post-mortem examinations, and studying blood spatter at crime scenes: it’s all in a day’s work for the next generation of forensic anthropologists.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 29th of March 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/doctors-warn-of-surgery-cancellations-in-flu-season/7278700

Doctors have warned that Tasmanian hospitals need to boost staffing levels before the flu season hits, or risk more elective surgery cancellations.

All elective surgery at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) was cancelled during the Easter break after a number of incidents that the health union has blamed on understaffing.

The Australian Medical Association’s Tim Greenaway warned if staff levels were not increased before the start of flu season, elective surgeries may again be put on hold.

“The problem will be if we get a bad flu season, with a lot of acute admissions, then elective surgery lists will be cancelled,” he said.

“Unless there is a flexing capacity – and by that I mean flexible bed numbers and staff to look after additional patients – the Royal Hobart Hospital particularly will be in diabolical trouble.”

The Health and Community Services Union has blamed the most recent incidents at RHH on staff shortages and a heavy workload in the public health system.

A 91-year-old man was forced to wait two days for surgery after a severe fall last Sunday, and two women in Hobart miscarried in chairs while waiting for beds during the week.

It is understood the move to halt elective surgeries over Easter has helped ease the strain …

In response to these recent problems, Tasmania’s Health Minister Michael Ferguson instructed the head of the state’s health system to spend a week in the hospital.

But Dr Greenaway questioned the benefit of having Tasmanian Health Service head David Alcorn in the hospital over Easter.

“I don’t know what he will be able to achieve on the Easter week,” he said.

“It would have been far more preferable for him to come down on a normal working week I think.”

Mr Ferguson also ordered an urgent report into the problems, which Labor’s Scott Bacon wants released in full.

But there are no plans to publically release the full report.

Cabinet will consider both the report and recommendations made by Mr Alcorn during the week.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/hep-c-could-be-eliminated-from-australia-in-years-experts-say/7278896

There is a realistic chance hepatitis C will be eliminated within a few years due to new public subsidies of powerful drugs, some of Australia’s top health experts say.

Strong new drugs have been publicly subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme since March 1, leading experts to think hepatitis C could be wiped out within years.

The direct-acting anti-viral drugs are more effective and have fewer side effects than previous treatments.

“We’ve got excellent drugs that can cure people, ” said Professor Margaret Hellard of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute.

“Australia has the ability to eliminate this as a public health threat over the next 10 to 15 years.

“We are in a place to show real leadership globally.”

More than 200,000 people in Australia have the infectious, blood-borne virus. It attacks the liver, causing its inflammation, and can lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, liver cancer and in some cases death.

Despite the new drugs to help combat the disease, health experts say the stigma of having hepatitis C will still need to be overcome because it is linked with drug use.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/forensic-science-enrolments-take-off-in-queensland-universities/7275948

Combing through soil for human remains, conducting post-mortem examinations, and studying blood spatter at crime scenes: it’s all in a day’s work for the next generation of forensic anthropologists.

Forensic science enrolments in Queensland have increased by nearly 70 per cent in the past four years, according to figures obtained by Queensland Tertiary Admissions Commission.

There have also been rises in criminology enrolments (30 per cent) and for biomedical science (about 35 per cent).

Donna MacGregor, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said forensic anthropologists studied human remains to determine a person’s ancestry, age, sex, and stature — in some cases, from just a few bones.

They are one of many professionals who attend crime scenes.