GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 31

9 Aug 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

Telephone scam alert

Medical practices, including general practices, have recently been the subject of a range of telephone and other scams. Among them, there have been an increasing number of scams whereby medical practices are contacted and asked for general practitioners' personal information. Directory scams are also prevalent, where practices are being billed for listings in directories which they thought were free of charge.

The prevalence of these scams highlights the need for general practices to implement processes, policies and procedures that will protect them from being caught up in fraudulent dealings. Practices should also be aware of security issues and ensure they take steps to protect against potential loss of sensitive data.

The AMA has issued several advices to members, and provided individual practices with advice and support. The AMA has recommended that practices take care and be alert for scams based overseas and in Australia, particularly directory listing scams.

The AMA has recommended that practices which have been the subject of a scam report it to their local Fair Trading authority or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

There is a great deal of information in the latest article on scams from Federal AMA in the July 29 edition of Australian Medicine.

The AMA urges its members to remain vigilant if contacted by unknown organizations requesting information, or seeking signatures on documents authorizing 'free' listings. The AMA believes that education is the best strategy to avoid being caught. Doctors and practice staff should educate themselves to spot a potential scam and avoid it.

Federal Election 2013 - The Final Countdown

The first week of the 2013 Federal Election campaign to date has been as fiery and lively - and as full of surprises - as anybody would have expected.

The campaign slogan battle is between 'A New Way' (ALP) versus 'Choose Real Change' (Coalition). Both three-word slogans, but neither as good as Clint Eastwood's 'Make My Day'. Music aficionados would much rather prefer 'Love My Way' (The Psychedelic Furs) or 'Something Better Change ('The Stranglers').

The Coalition, however, has a couple of back-up slogans - 'A Stronger Australia' and 'A Better Future'. Personally, I would have gone with 'The Final Countdown' (Europe).

Back to the campaign, and there has been punch and counterpunch on the state of the economy, interest rates, the carbon tax (aka the ETS), costing of election promises, the NBN, support of the car industry, reductions in company tax, unemployment, asylum seekers, the GST, the NDIS, and the Better Schools program.

More interesting has been the resurrection of Peter Beattie to contest Forde (Qld); the candid photo of Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese having a beer with disgraced MP Craig Thomson in a Sydney bar; gaffes by candidates (both experienced and inexperienced, with a One Nation candidate claiming Islam is a country); the PM and the Opposition Leader wearing caps and funny hats, launching new candidates, promising new promises, kissing babies and, in an interesting new trend, kissing hair (Tony Abbott's lips missed the baby and locked on the mother's locks in one celebrated incident).

One big gap in the policy battlefield so far is health policy, with The Greens the only players with a rebadged AMA policy for an independent health panel for asylum seekers in offshore detention. All credit to them for recognising and promoting good AMA policy.

There are still four-and-a-bit weeks to go, so we remain confident that Tanya Plibersek and Peter Dutton will share the spotlight soon with their leaders to say something serious to shake up the health policy battle in this election.

We want health policy, and we want it now.

Stay tuned.

John Flannery
Editor, Australian Medicine

MERS coronavirus update

The Department of Health and Ageing has issued its latest advice on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. As of 1 August 2013, the MERS coronavirus has been identified in 94 patients and 49% of cases have died. The source of infections is unknown, but limited person-to-person transmission has occurred.

Most cases of MERS coronavirus infection have presented with or later developed acute respiratory illness and have predominantly affected adults with underlying medical conditions. The infection has occurred in people who have lived in or travelled to the Middle East (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), and family, hospital room and workplace contacts of cases acquired in the Middle East.

In patients with pneumonia or pneumonitis with a recent travel history (in the last 14 days) from the Middle East, or contact with known confirmed or probable cases, the following is recommended:

  • Investigations and management should be performed as usual for cases of pneumonia and pneumonitis.
  • Reduce the risk of transmission by following standard precautions, including asking patients to wear a surgical mask.
  • If a patient requires transfer to hospital, ensure that details of travel history and/or exposures to previously confirmed cases are passed on to the admitting hospital.
  • Inform your local public health unit / communicable disease control branch about the case urgently.

GPs should be aware that many Muslims will be travelling to Saudi Arabia in August and October to undertake the Umrah and Hajj. The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that elderly people and those with chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease and diabetes, as well as patients with congenital and acquired immune deficiency diseases, cancer patients, pregnant women and children defer travel to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah and Hajj this year. Pilgrims should consult a health care provider before travelling to review the risk and assess whether making the pilgrimage is medically advisable.

Department of Health's latest update.

The prevalence of chronic pain in general practice

Almost 20% of patients seen in general practice have chronic pain, and more than a third of these had pain ranking in the two highest pain grades, according to a recent analysis from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) study, a continuous, national cross-sectional survey of Australian general practice.

The research (published in Pain Medicine 2013; online 15 July), which used a subset of 197 GPs and 5,793 patients from the BEACH program, found that medication was used for pain management by 86.1% of patients, and one third also used non-pharmacological managements. One third of patients were taking opioids, most commonly those at the highest pain severity grades. The patients and GPs in this study were closely aligned in their levels of satisfaction with pain management.

Source: Henderson, J. V., Harrison, C. M., Britt, H. C., Bayram, C. F. and Miller, G. C. (2013), Prevalence, Causes, Severity, Impact, and Management of Chronic Pain in Australian General Practice Patients. Pain Medicine. doi: 10.1111/pme.12195

Greens' asylum seeker health panel policy must be supported by major parties

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, has called on the major parties to support the Australian Greens' policy, released this week, to establish an independent health panel to monitor the health of asylum seekers in detention.

The AMA has been calling for such an independent Expert Health Care Panel for two years. Dr Hambleton said that the Greens' policy is very welcome and goes a long way towards addressing AMA concerns about the health of asylum seekers detained offshore.

"The prospect of long-term detention - both onshore and offshore - poses a great risk to the mental health of detainees, often resulting in self-harm or attempted suicide.

"The stress and trauma of indefinite detention has life-long effects on children.

"We would like to see the Greens extend their policy to include the monitoring of the health care of asylum seekers in onshore detention facilities." Dr Hambleton said.

Full media release

AMC opens Australia's first national medical test centre

The Australian Medical Council has opened a state of the art National Test Centre in Melbourne, on the back of recommendations from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing's Lost in the Labyrinth report published last year. The Centre is the only one of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful of facilities like it in the world. It will enable the assessment of IMGs' clinical skills, using the latest technology and best practices, outside teaching hospitals.

"The centre will immediately increase the number of international medical graduates eligible for registration in Australia and end delays for candidates waiting to sit the AMC clinical examination," said Professor Robin Mortimer AO, President of the Australian Medical Council.

More information

National Antenatal Care Guidelines

The Australian Government in collaboration with state and territory governments has developed national evidence-based antenatal care guidelines. Module 1 of the Guidelines covers care in the first trimester of pregnancy and contains chapters on 'Providing woman-centred care', 'Antenatal care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women' and 'Population groups with specific care needs' such as women in rural and remote areas. Module 2 of the Guidelines addresses the care in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and is still in development.

Clinical Practice Guidelines Antenatal Care - Module 1 is available to AMA members in the GP Desktop Practice Support Toolkit or from the Department of Health and Ageing.

Professor Fiona Wood to open 2013 GPET Convention

The annual General Practice Education and Training Limited (GPET) Convention will be held this year 11-12 September at the Crown, Perth. The theme for this year is 'mining for gold in general practice education' and will be opened by Professor Fiona Wood, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon who will explore what it means for medical education.

The Convention program offers over 70 sessions with more than 100 papers and workshops over the two days available for participants who are passionate about general practice education and training. Presenters include: medical students, registrars, medical educators, GP supervisors and regional training provider staff.

Ms Penny Neuendorf, Education Manager from the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), will present the secondary theme of e-health on Thursday 12 September. Penny led a COAG- funded project in augmented reality in a vocational education environment, entitled 'Virtual Worlds in Health Education'.

The closing plenary on 12 September will bring together the themes of eTraining and eHealth with a panel of speakers, including Dr Chris Mitchell, Clinical Leader of NEHTA and Dr Louise Stone, GPET's Medical Adviser.

To read more about the Convention keynotes or to download the updated Convention Program visit the Convention site.

Follow the official GPET Convention Twitter account @GPETConvention and join the conversation at #GPET13.

Medical Journal of Australia

The latest edition of Medical Journal of Australia is out now. This issue focuses on cardiovascular disease, with articles on topics such as developing a global agenda for action on cardiovascular diseases; detecting rheumatic heart disease; stress testing in the bush; challenges in health policy; part 3 in the Cardiology series advances in managing heart disease; supporting rural health care; and much more.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.

In this issue:

AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community. Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing