GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 32

16 Aug 2013

Dr Steve Hambleton, AMA President

Dr Haikerwal NEHTA resignation raises serious concerns about clinical input to PCEHR

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said this week that the resignation of Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, head of clinical leadership and stakeholder management, from the National Electronic Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) raises serious concerns about clinical input to decision-making in the implementation of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).

The resignations of Dr Haikerwal, a former AMA President and NHHRC Commissioner, and other clinical leads, including Dr Nathan Pinksier, come amid reports that the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) is taking over engagement with the medical profession and IT industry over the design of the PCEHR.

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA has long advocated that the success of the PCEHR depended on how it met clinical needs.

"The PCEHR simply will not be effective if doctors - the people who patients trust most with their health care - do not have a say on what goes on the electronic medical record and how that information is accessed and used, and by whom.

"This has been a sticking point for the medical profession all along. That is why the AMA has pushed for a more consultative approach to the PCEHR implementation with priority to be given to ailments, treatments, tests, and medications.

"With the Government in caretaker mode, DoHA and NEHTA must urgently assure the health sector and the public that the PCEHR remains on track, and that clinicians will continue to have a major role in decision-making," Dr Hambleton said.

Media release.

Good news on intern places

The AMA welcomes the Government's recently announced $8 million package to fund 60 intern places next year in regional and rural hospitals.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the one-off package by the Commonwealth provides certainty for some graduates but all governments have more to do to ensure that the long-term medical training pipeline is guaranteed.

"All State and Territory Governments must work cooperatively with the Commonwealth so that the expected 3500 students graduating from medical schools across the country this year are able to access essential intern training in 2014.

"The Commonwealth has invested heavily in the expansion of medical school places, with more than 3800 graduates expected each year by 2016, but we now need a firm plan to meet demand beyond that period." Dr Hambleton said.

Media release.

AMA President addresses the Social Determinants of Health Alliance public forum

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, spoke to a public health conference in Sydney this week, warning of the health impacts of poor social and environmental conditions.

"What is the link between doctors, medicine and the social determinants?  It is simple.  Doctors don't just treat people who are sick or injured or advise people how to stay healthy," Dr Hambleton said.

"If people are ill, we want to know what made them ill. What are the factors that contributed to their sickness or poor health?  How can we address these problems?"

He discussed how stressors such as anxiety, unemployment and job insecurity, social isolation, poverty and homelessness, debt, and discrimination have a major impact on people's health and risk of premature death and makes them more vulnerable to mental illness and chronic disease.

Dr Hambleton spoke of the AMA's advocacy to improve the social determinants of health and raise awareness in the minds of the public, the health sector and governments. He exhorted the Government to make the social determinants of health, and health equity, a public policy imperative and to embed the theme of better population health across portfolios such as education, housing, employment, transport and the environment.

Dr Hambleton's speech.

Australian Medicine

In the 12 August 2013 edition of Australian Medicine, Dr Brian Morton, Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, discusses the concept of the 'medical home' and reports on the findings of the AMA member opinion survey conducted in late May and early June.

Also covered in this week's edition are topics including: the AMA's determination to continue fighting to have the tax cap scrapped after the Federal Government tried to neutralise it as an election issue by delaying its introduction until mid 2015; the latest on the election front; the importance of GPs in mental health care; prostate cancer testing; medicine price cuts; lagging organ donation rates; the fight against antibiotic resistance; sports related brain injury; and the AMA in action and in the news.

More than 40 news stories, opinion pieces, analysis and comment on health issues are explored in this edition of Australian Medicine, which can be read online, or downloaded as a flipbook or PDF.

Chief Medical Officer communiqué regarding Lyme disease

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley, AO, has provided advice regarding the progress of the Clinical Advisory Committee on Lyme disease (CACLD). The advice is intended for doctors who may have an interest in Lyme disease or who may treat patients who are concerned that they have Lyme disease.

The Committee was established earlier this year in response to concerns about the existence of indigenous Lyme disease in Australia. Its task is to provide advice on the identification and characterisation of a causative microorganism and vector in Australia; the best diagnostic pathway in Australia; and appropriate treatment options for any Australian cases.

The Committee has identified issues arising from Lyme disease in Australia that have been documented in a discussion paper titled CACLD Discussion Paper on Lyme Disease. The Committee agreed that more information is required about the research needs for identifying and characterising a causative microorganism (a Borrelia species) and its vector.

More information and updates about the Committee are available from the Department of Health and Ageing.

Millions unaware of chronic disease risk

The results of a recent landmark study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that millions of adults are unaware that they are living with dangerous health conditions that put them at risk of diabetes, heart disease and kidney and liver problems.

The study discovered that one in three Australians has unmanaged high cholesterol, and 1.3 million have both unmanaged high cholesterol and unmanaged high blood pressure. The study also found that three quarters of Australians aged 45 years or older had risk factors for heart disease, while almost half of those aged between 18 and 45 years had at least one risk factor for heart disease. Furthermore, one in ten adults were found to have chronic kidney disease and almost 12 per cent had liver problems.

Disturbingly, the survey found that many were unaware that they had, or were at significant risk of developing, serious chronic illnesses.

Read more in this week's issue of Australian Medicine.

Further information is available in Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12.

Health Professionals' Health Conference 2013

The 2013 Health Professionals' Health Conference, themed Caring for you, caring for others, will be held on 3rd-5th October at the Sofitel Brisbane.

This conference focuses on maximizing the health of the health professional from many different perspectives, to enable a positive cultural change that improves personal health, the ability to support the health of peers and care for patients. International and national experts will cover a broad range of topics including: being the treating health practitioner, mental and physical health, mandatory reporting, compassion fatigue, ageing and managing conflict.

Register now.

Revision of ADIPS gestational diabetes guidelines

More women will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, following a recent lowering of the diagnostic threshold by the Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS). The revised guidelines drop the fasting blood glucose diagnostic cut-off from 5.5mmol/L to 5.1mmol/L. Another change is that a diagnosis can now be made if the one-hour glucose is 10mmol/L or greater and a two-hour glucose is 8.5mmol/L or greater. Also, the 75g oral glucose tolerance test replaces the glucose challenge test.

More information.

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus - situation update

The Department of Health and Ageing issues a weekly situation update on the MERS coronavirus based on information from the WHO and other published sources. The latest update is available online.

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.


Australian Smoking Cessation Conference: 6 - 8 November 2013

Associate Professor Renee Bittoun from the Smoking Research Unit invites tobacco treatment specialists, medical professionals, health workers and others with an interest in the field to attend the Australian Smoking Cessation Conference 2013, 6 - 8 November.

At this conference, you will have the opportunity to:

  1. Focus on clinical practice in smoking cessation, sharing knowledge gained from it and passing on knowledge to help improve it
  2. Translate the current evidence-based science on nicotine addiction and treatment into clinical practice
  3. Gain professional development in smoking cessation methodology
  4. Learn about smoking cessation projects from around the nation
  5. Network with like-minded professionals

Find out 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