Health minister Greg Hunt

Amidst the recent political disruptions, Health Minister Greg Hunt weighed in behind prime ministerial challenger Peter Dutton, whom a doctors’ poll once described as the worst health minister in 35 years, yet retained his portfolio in the new Coalition cabinet.

Mr Hunt’s reappointment was announced by incoming PM Scott Morrison on 26 August, following the Liberal Party’s overthrow of leader Malcolm Turnbull. Aboriginal man Ken Wyatt AM continues as Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care.

Medicare co-payments were the controversial topic in the portfolio until the emergence of the MyHealth Record, which attracted widespread criticism on the basis that patient records might be accessed by unapproved parties, including police.

North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN), is seeking Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from eligible general practitioners (GPs) or organisations to provide clinical advice to NCPHN on Workforce (one of NCPHN's priority areas) in Northern NSW. The contract term is up until 30 June 2019.

The successful provider will be responsible for delivering high quality clinical advice and service support to NCPHN across a range of Northern NSW Workforce initiatives, including:

  • providing advice on initiatives to support the continued development of an accessible high quality primary health care workforce, including continuing professional development and inter and intra-professional networking opportunities
  • supporting the establishment and maintenance of local clinical societies, including providing mentorship and support to clinical society steering committees
  • identifying local workforce needs and advising on addressing skill gaps
  • planning and designing locally relevant educational events in consultation with key stakeholders, including clinical society steering committees.

To market to market went my PHN
when somebody threw a tomato tha'd b'en  
all soft and squishy; ‘twould not hurt the skin
But alas, I'm afraid, this was wrapped in a tin

July 1st 2018 marked the first day of the next phase in the North Coast Primary Health Network’s transition to a commissioning body. The transition began two years ago and the latest development sees a major change to the organisation’s structure.

In line with the Coalition's philosophy of competitive markets PHNs are gradually devolving their activities through a tendering mechanism to external parties. The government believes this has worked well in telecommunications, aged care and disability services. It brings market forces to bear on the provision of human services of all types.

“To sleep, perchance to dream”
- Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Sleep apnoea almost seems like an Australian invention. Its physiology was poorly understood in the 1970s and contemporary treatment owes a lot to the pioneering work of Dr Colin Sullivan on positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

Since then the extent  of the problem has grown considerably and reflects the increase in the body mass of Australians. Obesity, and sleep apnoea, one of its consequences, is now a major industry around the world.

The clinical significance of the problem has been debated and recent studies suggest that our current approach in Australia has led to over-treatment.

Dr Bronwyn Hudson is the founder and principal GP at the Yellow Gate Medical Clinic in Banaglow. She specialises in addiction medicine and runs an outpatient opioid treatment program.

In good news for the medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence (MATOD) in general practice, the recently updated NSW Clinical Guidelines: Treatment of Opioid Dependence 2018 provide a number of measures that make treating opioid dependence in the community more practical and flexible.

The new guidelines aim to increase access to MATOD by expanding the role that GPs play in opioid replacement therapy. The guidelines also place a greater reliance on non-government organisations as well as community pharmacies.