Australian Medical News Brief January 2018

Welcome to Medshop Australia’s monthly series, News Brief, where we talk about what you may have missed. These are mostly articles we’ve posted on our social media news feeds. We consider them the most newsworthy events in Australian health and medicine from the last month. You will find links to the original articles. Let’s look back and review the top stories from January.

 

Johnson & Johnson withdraws pelvic mesh device from Australian market

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As reported by The Guardian, medical supplies manufacturer Johnson & Johnson have had to withdraw their pelvic vaginal mesh device from the Australian market.

The device is used in surgical procedures to treat chronic urinary incontinence in women where other methods have failed to be effective. It's a mesh tape that acts as a sling to provide support to the urethra.

Johnson & Johnson's device became the subject of a class action lawsuit run by Shine Lawyers last year, with 700 Australian women alleging that faulty pelvic mesh implants had caused them debilitating pain.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requested all manufacturers of transvaginal sling and mesh devices to update their instructions for use to include information regarding possible adverse events.

The deadline for this information to be submitted to the TGA was the 17th of January. Johnson & Johnson failed to meet this deadline resulting in the product being banned for importation.

A list of alternative manufacturing companies that have met the new requirements has been made public. Given the popularity of the Johnson & Johnson product in Australia, many hospitals may continue to use this device until new supplies have been sourced.

 

A New Study Suggests That "Baby Brain" Is Real

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As reported by IFLScience, a new study has been released proving that the phenomenon of "baby brain" is very much a real condition faced by pregnant women.

The term "baby brain" is often used by women to account for their pregnancy symptoms of poor memory and reduced cognitive function. Scientists at Australia's Deakin University have performed a meta-analysis of 20 different studies on the relationship between pregnancy and cognitive function.

The study incorporates a cross-section of women both pregnant and non-pregnant to accurately account for variable and measure differences in performance. Overall the study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed that cognitive functioning and memory were worse among pregnant women.

"General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy (compared with control women), but not during the first two trimesters," the authors wrote in their paper.

Additional research is being undertaken to determine how significantly this can impact pregnant women's day to day functioning and quality of life.

Current research suggests that performance remains within normal ranges of general cognitive functioning and memory.

 

Australian Medical Association wants tax on sugary drinks and ban on junk food ads

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As reported by The Guardian, in a bid to curb rising levels of obesity the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is lobbying towards a tax on sugary drinks and a ban on junk foods ads that target children.

The case for a sugar tax has been a hot topic since last year, however, the proposal has been rejected by the Australian government thus far.

In September last year prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull rejected the proposition of a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on the grounds that Australian consumers already pay significant taxes at the supermarket.

The AMA is also calling for an increase in education with nutrition and food literacy programs in schools.

The president of the AMA, Michael Gannon has declared, “Advertising and marketing unhealthy food and drink to children should be prohibited altogether, and the loophole that allows children to be exposed to junk food and alcohol advertising during coverage of sporting events must be closed.”

AMA officials also insists that the default beverage option in all instances where a beverage is provided with a meal should be water.

With obesity giving rise to many health conditions that put a strain on the public health system at a cost to taxpayers, this debate is only the beginning of what will hopefully give rise to greater health outcomes for all Australians.

 

South Australia's Hospital Workers Took Five Extra Sick Days Last Financial Year

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As reported by Adelaide Now, Hospital staff in Adelaide took almost five days more days of sick leave in the last financial year than they took in the 2015-2016 financial year.

This significant increase has prompted claims that this is due to mounting workplace pressures, stress and the states worst flu season.

Office for the public sector has released figures showing that the average days of sick leave a state government worker takes annually has risen to 10.1. This is almost three more days than those who work within the private sector as monitored by the Australian Human Resources Institute.

The unions representing doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals have attributed the increase to mounting workplace stressors, under-staffing and budget cuts.

The government's Transforming Health reforms and the move into the new Royal Adelaide Hospital have also been cited and causing additional disruption amidst the challenges of the transition.

 

Government announces crackdown on after-hours GP home visits

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As reported by the ABC, a crackdown on after house home visits from junior doctors has been made in an effort to improve health outcomes.

In the past six years, the number of Australians opting for home care visits by after-hours GP's has increased by more than 150%, this raises concerns within the medical community that it comes at the expense of continuity of care from a qualified GP.

One of the changes made will see that junior doctors will no longer be paid as much as a qualified GP for after-hours home visits. Patients will no longer be able to book home visits in advance and a fully qualified GP will need to assess whether the visit is necessary, rather than just convenient.

Health Minister, Greg Hunt has stated, "The changes to after-hours arrangements will mean doctors are able to provide the best care to their patients, and that after-hours services are provided by an appropriate doctor to people who require genuinely urgent treatment... Services provided in rural and remote areas will not change, in recognition of the difficulty Australians in these areas can face in accessing after-hours care."

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