News in brief: Is it time to get rid of the term ‘elective surgery’?; ‘The system has failed’: Qld health minister pledges cash to stop RHD deaths; NPS MedicineWise calls for review on its funding


9 May 2022

Is it time to get rid of the term ‘elective surgery’?

The term ‘elective surgery’ should be abandoned because it gives the false impression that some procedures are optional and can be delayed indefinitely, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons says.

With lower tier surgeries repeatedly placed on hold throughout the pandemic, the college wants a national review of urgency categories to reduce the risk of future blanket bans on certain procedures.

The key issue is that procedures are not always categorised consistently, creating unfair outcomes for doctors and patients waiting for category 2 or 3 surgeries, it says.

The college has pointed to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showing 32% of patients were waiting over a year for knee replacements by January 2022 – up from 11% two years previously.

“COVID-19 shutdowns caused a significant deterioration in elective surgery waiting lists,” says RACS Councillor Professor Mark Frydenberg.

“The sector must be careful that the terminology used to define types of surgery does not result in the importance of these procedures being diminished, or be used to implicitly justify long waiting times

The college is yet to say what term should be used instead.

‘The system has failed’: Qld health minister pledges cash to stop RHD deaths

Queensland has ‘failed’ remote Indigenous children with rheumatic heart disease and needs to do more to prevent patients dying of the condition, the state’s health minister has conceded.

The message comes amid a multi-year coronial investigation into the deaths of three women from the community of Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Queensland’s Coroner’s Court has already established the women – Yvette “Betty” Booth, 18, Adele “Sandy” Diamond, 37, and Shakaya George, 17 – all died of RHD, which has a prevalence 582 times higher in Indigenous patients than the general population.

The final stage of the inquiry – an inquest into the deaths – will be held in July.

But Queensland Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath says it is already clear that changes are needed and has pledged to spend $7.38 million on disease prevention and community health upgrades.

“We failed these kids, the system, the whole system,” she said last month.

“I’m not going to criticise the health workers at Doomadgee. They do an incredibly hard job. But this system failed.”

NPS MedicineWise calls for review on its funding

The future of NPS MedicineWise is under a cloud because the service has lost almost its entire Federal Government funding, its CEO says.

It follows the federal budget announcement back in March that the NPS would no longer receive uncontested funding to promote quality use of medicines, a cut of around $25 million annually.

The money will instead go to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), which will also take over the service’s website and the MedicineInsight dataset and.

The Practice Review letters sent to doctors comparing their prescribing of PBS-listed medicines with others in their specialty are also now expected to come from the commission.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Katherine Burchfield says the decision is a mistake.

“We are disappointed and concerned with what this means for Australia at a time when quality and safe use of medicines is listed as a national health priority,” she says.

“While there is no doubt that the ACSQHC has a key role to play in quality use of medicines, and has strong capabilities and networks, it performs a different role and function in the health system to that of NPS MedicineWise.”

“The two organisations should work together, using their different strengths and levers, to enact change.”

She said the service had contacted Minister for Health Greg Hunt to request he reconsider.

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