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GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 11

In this issue: Ongoing Funding Needed to Close the Gap;UGPA Leaders Insist on Immediate Training Reforms to Increase Australia’s GP Workforce;New Joint Pain Tool;Be Brave and Re-Regulate Antibiotics;GPs Manage Sleep Apnoea as Effectively as Specialists;CIR Conference 2013;Email the AMA;Post new comment to the website;

22 Mar 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

Ongoing Funding Needed to Close the Gap

This week on National Close The Gap Day 2013, the AMA urged all Australian governments to build on the momentum that has seen some positive results in closing the gap and achieving health equality between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that closing the gap is a national priority that requires significant long-term funding and genuine political commitment from all governments. The AMA calls on Federal and State and Territory Governments to renew their policy and funding commitments to the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes for another five years from 2013.

To view the AMA recommendations for a national strategic plan and acknowledgement of the achievements click here.

UGPA Leaders Insist on Immediate Training Reforms to Increase Australia’s GP Workforce

At a recent United General Practice Australia (UGPA) meeting in Canberra, GP leaders from the AMA, RACGP, AMLA, AGPN, GPRA, ACRRM and RDAA agreed that there is an urgent need to significantly increase GP training numbers to capture the surge of junior doctors coming through the hospital system.

Medical undergraduate training places were originally increased to redress the rural and outer metropolitan community’s access to general practice services; however the UGPA believes decisive action by the Government is needed to increase GP training numbers to ensure that Australia attains a balance between the general practice and specialist workforces.

The most recent Medical Workforce 2011 report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showed a decline in the supply of GPs despite recent increases to GP vocational training, whereas other specialty areas demonstrated overall growth. Further, the report confirms the maldistribution of the Australian general practice workforce with an ongoing shortage of GPs in outer metropolitan, rural and remote Australia.

UGPA is calling on government to further increase GP training numbers to 1,700 per annum, to ensure that the community has continued access to high quality and affordable GP services. This must be backed by significant increases to supervisor and training capacity, combined with attractive training models to encourage trainees to undertake general practitioner training.

New Joint Pain Tool

GPs are advised of a new easy to use website launched this week, to support patients in better managing their hip or knee osteoarthritis or their risk of suffering from it. Launched as part of Arthritis Awareness Week by the Arthritis Australia in partnership with the Bupa Health Foundation, the Myjointpain.org.au website provides people living with osteoarthritis with access to a credible resource which can inform and empower them to be active in managing their condition and improving their mobility and quality of life.

A link to the website has been included in the AMA GP Desktop Practice Support Toolkit for AMA members.

Be Brave and Re-Regulate Antibiotics

Doctors, government and the community need to “be brave enough” to make difficult decisions about the use of antibiotics if Australia is to avoid a “plague” of multidrug-resistant bacteria, according to an editorial published this week in a special issue of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) focusing on infectious diseases.

Associate Professor David Looke, President of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and his coauthors warned that tracking of resistance trends in Australia is lacking. They wrote that there were two basic strategies needed for the control of multidrug-resistant bacteria: “enhancing traditional infection control and antibiotic stewardship, where ‘selection pressure’ on bacterial flora is mitigated by reduction in the volume of antibiotics used in clinical practice”.

Also in the same MJA issue, one international expert, Dr Abdul Ghafur, consultant in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, India, suggests that antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) are the way to stem the tide of multidrug-resistant bacteria, and wrote that “Australian health authorities should be commended for now requiring hospitals to have a formal ASP in place to achieve accreditation”.

A further article on the outcomes after implementing an antimicrobial stewardship program can be found here.

Click here to read the editorial by Looke and associates.

For more on this issue click here.

GPs Manage Sleep Apnoea as Effectively as Specialists

An Adelaide study, published on 13 March 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has shown that primary care management of obstructive sleep apnoea is as effective as treatment in a specialist sleep centre.

The study, conducted by Dr Ching Li Chai-Coetzer, a respiratory physician at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, et al, compared primary care management of obstructive sleep apnoea with usual care in a university hospital sleep medicine centre; both plans included continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), mandibular advancement splints, or conservative measures only. GPs and community nurses participated in six hours of training by sleep specialists before the study commenced.

The study found that, over a period of six months, there were significant and equivalent improvements in Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) scores in both groups. In addition, no differences were found in relation to symptoms, quality of life, CPAP adherence and overall patient satisfaction.

The authors believe the findings have significant implications for patients living in rural and remote areas where patients have limited access to specialist sleep services. “With appropriate training and simplified management tools, primary care physicians are ideally positioned to take on a greater role in diagnosis and treatment,” stated the authors.

With demand for sleep studies often exceeding capacity, the Australian Sleep Association (ASA) has been advocating an increased role for primary care diagnosis and management via access to MBS items for Level 3 and 4 sleep studies, with providers credentialed by the ASA. The AMA Council of General Practice is supportive of the ASA’s proposal and the AMA will assist the ASA where appropriate in making their case to Government.

Click here to view the study abstract.

CIR Conference 2013

The Attorney-General’s Department has released the preliminary program for its Critical Infrastructure Resilience (CIR) conference 2013, titled A smart investment: exploring the value proposition of resilience.  

Critical infrastructure is defined as those physical facilities, supply chains, information technologies and communication networks, which, if destroyed or rendered unavailable for an extended period, would significantly impact on Australia’s social or economic well-being or security. Health facilities, including general practices, are considered an important part of critical infrastructure, as is power, water, communications systems, and banking.

As an initiative under the Australian Government's CIR Strategy, the CIR Conference aims to help develop and maintain an effective business-government partnership with owners and operators, and enhance the resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure.

The conference program features a range of world leading experts on risk management, business continuity and organisational resilience. It is open to all interested parties and will be of particular interest and benefit to senior management. The program is being held over two days from 18-19 April 2013 at Rendezvous Grand Hotel in Melbourne for a cost of $600. Registrations close on Friday 5 April 2013. 

Click here to view a preliminary program or to register to attend.

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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 gpnn@ama.com.au or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing unsubscribe@ama.com.au

Published: 22 Mar 2013