Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Federal Election 2016: don't have a heart attack on Fridays

Live in a small coastal village or larger town on the NSW Far North Coast or on a Northern Rivers farm 100 km inland from the sea?

Then you have been living this situation for years.

The Northern Star, online editorial, 30 April 2016:

We live in two of the most marginal seats in Australia in the upcoming federal election and that puts us in the box seat as voters.
Our vote is crucial, what ever way you look at it.
If the Coalition wants to hang on to power it wouldn't want to lose Page, while Richmond is held by Labor's Justine Elliot by a margin of just 1%.
The past two state elections in Queensland and NSW have shown voters are swinging wildly and any form of comfortable political loyalty has flown out the window.
To be completely mercenary about it, neither major party can afford to take the people of the Northern Rivers for granted.
We live in a wonderful part of the world, that's why we are all here. But it's time for voters to rise up and demand the same sort of lifestyle someone living in the city can expect.
That's what our current Fair Go campaign is all about - closing the gap between city and country.
Health figures we've highlighted today paint a stark contrast…..
It suggests to me that our fair share of programs and support services in suicide and cancer are aimed at the wrong part of the country.
And we should demand to know from every candidate standing in Page and Richmond, what they are going to do about it?

The Daily Examiner, online, 30 April 2016, p. 1:

If you're going to collapse from a heart attack in the Clarence Valley, don't do it on a Friday says local doctor Allan Tyson.
Dr Tyson, who is a specialist anaesthetist and emergency doctor at Grafton Base Hospital, said having a heart attack on Friday was not a wise move because the cardiac unit at Coffs Harbour was only available three days a week and Friday was not one of those days.
"The standard of treatment you would get here is a standard lower than you would get if you lived in the metropolitan area," Dr Tyson said.
"Here they would give you blood thinners and hope that the problem didn't reappear
"If it was a real emergency you could be flown to John Flynn (on the Gold Coast) for treatment."
He said in contrast a patient in a metropolitan scenario would have access to the latest cardio services almost instantly…..

The Daily Examiner, 30 April 2016, p. 4:

Clarence Valley residents are more likely to die of avoidable diseases caused by smoking, drinking and obesity than Aussies living in capital city suburbs.
A special ARM Newsdesk analysis of public health data shows the long-term outlook for our region's residents is dire.
The Daily Examiner today reveals a set of shocking statistics as we ramp up our Fair Go for Clarence Valley campaign in the lead-up to the mooted July 2 double dissolution election.
We are calling for iron-clad federal guarantees on a range of issues including health, education and employment so we can have the same advantages and outcomes as metropolitan Australia.
An in-depth analysis of data from the Social Health Atlas of Australia reveals the following alarming health trends for our region.
At least 22.8% of Clarence Valley residents smoke compared to 14.5% in the region's closest capital city, Brisbane.
About 5.4% of our residents drink alcohol to excess. This figure is higher than Brisbane on 4.9%.
Almost one third of the Clarence Valley population is obese. At 31.9%, our obesity rate is higher than Brisbane's 25.2%.
Our avoidable cancer death rate of 121.5 per 100,000 residents from 2009 to 2012 was significantly higher than Brisbane's 93.6.
Deaths from avoidable heart disease in the same period hit 26.9 per 100,000 people in Clarence Valley. This was higher than Brisbane's rate of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The recent Medical Research and Rural Health -- Garvan Report 2015 confirms that death rates from chronic and avoidable diseases increase the further you get from capital cities.
The Garvan Research Foundation found regional areas also had steeper rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and mental health problems.
The report reveals many reasons for the health disparities, but most of them revolve around a set of social factors that include smaller household incomes, higher risk jobs such as mining and farming, a lack of similar specialist medical services compared to metropolitan Australia and the higher cost of transporting healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegies to our region.
"The foundation of all good policy is a solid information base and a good understanding of the realities facing any sector of the population," Garvan chief executive Andrew Giles said.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis agreed, saying it would take long-term commitments from successive governments to reverse the Clarence Valley's negative health trends.
Dr Parnis said the first step towards bridging the gaps was ensuring our region had the same health services as those available to capital city residents…..

The Northern Star, 30 April 2016, pp.1 & 6:

The suicide rate per 100,000 in Sydney is 5.3%. In the Northern Rivers it's 12.5% Avoidable cancer deaths per 100,000 people in the Northern Rivers is 103.7. In Sydney it's 95.1…..
"I need to keep across the readings. But as a pensioner I won't be able to afford the 29 tests per year."
Pathology companies are threatening to introduce a $30 co-payment for all medical tests, including pap smears, MRIs and blood tests, if the government goes ahead with the cut.
Mr McPherson's cluster headaches -- much more significant than migraines -- usually take 10 to 12 years to diagnose.
"The lithium reduces the pressure in the nerves. I will need lithium monitoring for the rest of my life," he said.
"I'm about to go on my second program of lithium which is only used in extreme cases of this condition.
"Everything I do has to be inside because light is a trigger for this condition."
"When I saw the Federal Government had made a decision to stop bulk billing of blood tests and pap tests and MRIs, I realised the situation was going to be quite awkward on a pension," he said.
This week doctors at 5500 private collection centres began approaching their patients to sign a petition asking the Senate to block the cuts.
However, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute, taxpayers could save over $240 million a year if the government made pathology companies tender to provide testing services. According to the report, pathology companies now benefit from cheaper, automated testing.
Far from calling for an exemption for his specific case, Mr McPherson has instead called the cuts a war on women.
"Women will die because they will not get regular pap smears which can detect and prevent cancer. It's false economy," he said.
"At cabinet level, did they have a document, which explored the impact of this policy in term of rates of mortality for women?
"And did they say we can accept that?
"Someone has made a decision here, without thinking of the broader impact of the community."

News Mail, 30 April 2016:

Getting good doctors to commit to the bush long-term is a huge struggle so two of the country's key health lobby groups have prescribed a simple remedy - more money.
The Rural Doctors Association of Australia and the Australia Medical Association say there is room in the multi-million dollar Commonwealth-funded Service Incentive Payment program to apply higher remoteness loadings for GPs happy to relocate from the city.
In releasing the RDAA and AMA's Rural Rescue Package, Dr Ewen McPhee said extra financial support aimed at "revitalising and sustaining" rural medical services could be the key to closing health gaps.
The RDAA president said financial incentives based on the remoteness of the area in which GPs worked was the way to go.
"Over the past two decades, many rural and remote communities have found it increasingly difficult to attract and retain doctors with the right mix of skills to meet their health and medical needs, including GPs with advanced skills training who can provide acute services in the hospital setting," Dr McPhee said.
"The Rural Rescue Package would make a huge difference."

The Daily Examiner, 30 April 2016, p. 5:

Maclean Hospital has a constant wish-list of equipment that government cannot fund, so a dedicated group of women and men take it on themselves to do something about it.
The Maclean Hospital Auxiliary have been raising money for the past 70 years and in the past year have raised about $75,000 for the hospital.
Add this to another $107,000 of equipment on order, and that's a lot of cakes and biscuits being sold at stalls.
"They give us a wish list, the articles they need, and then we go down through the list and supply them with whatever monies we have at the time," president Sandra Bradbury said.
"We do various fundraisers, we have four stalls a year, street stalls and we bake cakes."
Without the help of donations, Mrs Bradbury said the hospital would not be nearly as well off.
"It used to be a full running hospital and now it's not... years ago it used to have a children's ward and a birthing place," she said.

The Daily Examiner, online, 29 April 2016:

This is a tale of two babies.
They were born 600km apart, but statistics suggest their prospects are worlds apart.
Data shows Clarence Valley newborn Charlotte Billett, pictured above with parents Stacey and Jeremy, is at risk of dying 4.9 years earlier than Sophia Milosevic, pictured right with her mum Kate.
For both children, their distance from capital cities makes all the difference.
Sophia's home is in the Federal seat of Bennelong in the north of Sydney, a seat long held by former prime minister John Howard.
Charlotte was born in Grafton, 310km from Brisbane and 890km from Canberra.
A special Daily Examiner investigation reveals how regional Australia has been let down, with health, education and infrastructure funding failing to help those who need it most.
In Grafton, the life expectancy for a baby born in 2014 is 80.4 compared to 85.3 where three-month-old Sophia lives in the Sydney suburb of Ryde.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal the median age of death for locals is 80 compared to 84 in the Ryde council area…..
Public health policy expert Dr Rob Moodie said Grafton's life expectancy rates and median age of death would not improve until the Clarence Valley matched its metropolitan cousins on income, education, employment and access to more top-quality health services…..

The Norther Star, 28 April 2016, p.6:

Over 420,000 Australians have banded together to back up pathology centres in their fight against cuts to bulk billing incentive payments.
Local collection centres advertised their Don't Kill Bulk Bill petition for patients to sign and health centres to get on board.
Natarsha Wotherspoon of Lismore chemist, Blooms, wanted to help.
"It's hard to come up with money for all your health needs ... How many people can't afford to eat, let alone pay for a blood test?" She said.
"If you're very ill and you're getting blood tests two or three times a week, the last thing you need to be thinking about is how you are going to pay for all these tests."
Ms Wotherspoon and the other chemist staff collectively gathered over 2000 signatures.
The Turnbull Government announced on December 17 it would scrap payments to pathologists and diagnostic imaging services when they bulk billed patients, saving $650 million over four years.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the sector could absorb the losses, but pathologists disagreed.
President of Pathology Australia Nick Musgrave said pathologists would have to charge patients a co-payment…..

The Northern Star, 23 April 2016, p.8:

They were born 730km apart, but statistics suggest their prospects are worlds apart.
Data shows Frankie Lindsay is at risk of dying four years earlier than Sophia Milosevic, pictured right with her mum Kate.
For both children their distance from capital cities makes all the difference.
Sophia's home is in the Federal seat of Bennelong in the north of Sydney, a seat long held by former prime minister John Howard.
Frankie was born in Casino, 195km from Brisbane and 1000km from Canberra.
A special Northern Star investigation reveals how regional Australia has been let down, with health, education and infrastructure funding failing to help those who need it most.
In Lismore, the life expectancy for a baby born in 2014 is 81.2 years compar- ed with 85.3 where three- month-old Sophia lives in the Sydney suburb of Ryde…..
Meanwhile, Ms Milosevic said there was no better place to raise a child in Australia than Ryde.
"It is a Liberal seat so it seems to do very well for itself," she said.
"There are constantly things happening, new playgrounds and projects with new funding.
"It's brought a different demographic of people and the area has become quite affluent."…..

The Northern Star, editorial, 23 April 2016, p.9:

…..Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will take the country to the polls within months.
Getting a Fair Go for our region will be our priority through the election campaign.
Mr Turnbull and Bill Shorten have questions to answer. Their parties must prove we are a priority.
Our sister papers across Queensland and northern New South Wales - and those of NewsCorp - will fight for the same thing.
Together, we represent the more than 6 million Australians who don't live in the big cities. Combined we reach 3.3 million readers a month.
Politicians beware: That's a lot of voters.
One in three Australians live in the regions - and they deserve the same access to health care, education, and employment prospects as those in our capital cities.
They're not getting it now, and that has to end.
Living in the bush, or at the beach, should not be a life sentence.
Little Frankie deserves better.

In his 2017-17 Budget speech last night Treasurer Scott Morrision announced an estimated additional $2.9 billion over three years for public hospital services.

With this sum having to be cut seven ways between the states and territories, I think one may safely say that Far North Coast health services will continue to lag behind those in the metropolitan areas across Australia and our life expectancy and health outcomes will continue to be lower under this federal government.

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