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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-18 09:53:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-17 23:53:31
                    [post_content] => 

The Auditor-General for New South Wales Margaret Crawford has released her report, in which she finds that NSW Health’s approach to planning and evaluating palliative care is not effectively coordinated. There is no overall policy framework for palliative and end-of-life care, nor is there comprehensive monitoring and reporting on services and outcomes.

“NSW Health has a limited understanding of the quantity and quality of palliative care services across the state, which reduces its ability to plan for future demand and the workforce needed to deliver it,” said the Auditor-General. “At the district level, planning is sometimes ad hoc and accountability for performance is unclear.”

Local Health Districts’ ability to plan, deliver and improve their services is hindered by:
  • Multiple disjointed information systems and manual data collection.
  • Not universally using a program that collects data on patient outcomes for benchmarking and quality improvement.
NSW Health should create an integrated policy framework that clearly defines interfaces between palliative and end-of-life care, articulates priorities and objectives and is supported by a performance and reporting framework. NSW Health should improve the collection and use of outcomes data and improve information systems to support palliative care services and provide comprehensive data for service planning. The  Auditor-General made four recommendations that called for the development of an integrated palliative and end-of-life care policy framework; proper data collection on patient outcomes; a state-wide review of systems and reporting for end of life management; and improved stakeholder engagement. Some improvements evident Over the last two years, NSW Health has taken steps to improve its planning and support for Local Health Districts. The NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation has produced an online resource that will assist districts to construct their own, localised models of care. And eHealth, which coordinates information communication technology for the state’s healthcare, aims to integrate and improve information systems. These initiatives should help to address many of the issues now inhibiting integrated service delivery, reporting on activity and outcomes, and planning for the future. NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord welcomed the report, saying it provided a roadmap for the State Government to improve end-of-life care in NSW. “As a prosperous nation, Australia and NSW have the means to ensure that the final years, months and days of elderly people and those with terminal diseases are lived in dignity,” Mr Secord said. “In my view our prosperity brings an obligation to do no less. “We have to recognise that palliative care is a field that will only grow as Australians now have the longest life expectancy in the English-speaking world. “Accordingly, we need a government response that embraces helping people to remain independent in their homes by finding ways to expand home and community care,” Mr Secord said. A full copy of the report is on the Audit Office website.   [post_title] => Palliative care: NSW Health must improve [post_excerpt] => NSW Health has a limited understanding of the quantity and quality of palliative care services across the state. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => palliative-care-nsw-health-must-improve [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-18 10:28:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-18 00:28:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27860 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27843 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-17 18:25:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-17 08:25:28 [post_content] => The University of Technology Sydney Institute for Public Policy and Governance has released a new resource for local government: How local governments can increase the social and economic participation of people with disability: A place-based framework for success. More than four million, or almost one in five, Australians are living with disability across every one of the 537 LGA in Australia. This resource, based on extensive engagement with more than 200 councils across Australia, provides a national picture of the variety of ways local governments currently support people with disability where they live. The resource aims to share this knowledge and support local governments to:
  • Engage people with disability about their needs.
  • Plan, implement and measure outcomes.
  • Build collaborative networks and partnerships.
  • Advocate within and outside the sector.
  • Boost local employment.
The resource has been designed for use by all local governments across Australia. This includes small rural and large metropolitan local governments, those in growth areas and those with ageing populations. It can be used to guide thinking and decision making about how to deliver, enable or advocate for services to increase the participation of people with disability in their communities. Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Centre for Local Government Professor Roberta Ryan said of the research: “Throughout the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial period, people with disability identified community participation as one of their top three support needs, and a significant proportion of NDIS expenditure is being spent on services which enable and enhance this outcome. “With the continued roll-out of the NDIS, the local government sector has an important role to support people with disability achieve greater social and economic participation in their community. This also presents an opportunity for local governments, as greater participation will lead to increased community expenditure and potentially generate local employment opportunities.” The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) grant funded the research, reflecting the important role local governments will play in supporting the social and economic participation of people with disability into the future, as NDIS reforms roll out. The resource and all related materials are available at ippg.org.au. [post_title] => Disability inclusion framework for local governments [post_excerpt] => UTS Sydney Institute for Public Policy and Governance has released a new resource for local government. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => disability-inclusion-framework-local-governments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-17 19:16:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-17 09:16:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27843 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27828 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-14 14:43:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-14 04:43:08 [post_content] => The Federal Government announced in the 2017-18 Budget context a number of initiatives to encourage the continued development of the SII market in Australia, including funding of $30 million. By pure coincidence, the Government also gifted $30m to Foxtel. The difference between this and Foxtel’s $30m is that Foxtel will get it over two years, while SII will have to wait ten years - Ed. The government’s package includes funding of $30 million over ten years, the release of a set of principles to guide the Australian government’s involvement in the SII market, and notes that the government will continue to separately consider ways to reduce regulatory barriers inhibiting the growth of the SII market. Social Impact Investing, the government says, is an emerging, outcomes‑based approach that brings together governments, service providers, investors and communities to tackle a range of policy (social and environmental) issues. It provides governments with an alternative mechanism to address social and environmental issues whilst also leveraging government and private sector capital, building a stronger culture of robust evaluation and evidenced-based decision making, and creating a heightened focus on outcomes. It is important to note that social impact investing is not suitable for funding every type of Australian government outcome. Rather, it provides an alternative opportunity to address problems where existing policy interventions and service delivery are not achieving the desired outcomes. Determining whether these opportunities exist is a key step in deciding whether social impact investing might be suitable for delivering better outcomes for the government and community. Government agencies involved in social impact investments should also ensure they have the capability (e.g. contract and relationship management skills, and access to data and analytic capability) to manage that investment. The principles The principles (available in full here) acknowledge that social impact investing can take many forms, including but not limited to, Payment by Results contracts, outcomes-focused grants, and debt and equity financing. The principles reflect the role of the Australian Government as an enabler and developer of this nascent market. They acknowledge that as a new approach, adjustments may be needed. They also acknowledge and encourage the continued involvement of the community and private sector in developing this market, with the aim of ensuring that the market can become sustainable into the future. Finally, the principles are not limited by geographical or sectoral boundaries. They can be considered in any circumstance where the Australian Government seeks to increase and leverage stakeholder interest in achieving improved social and environmental outcomes (where those outcomes can be financial, but are also non‑financial). Accordingly, where the Australian Government is involved in social impact investments, it should take into account the following principles:
  1. Government as market enabler and developer.
  2. Value for money.
  3. Robust outcomes-based measurement and evaluation.
  4. Fair sharing of risk and return.
  5. Outcomes that align with the Australian Government’s policy priorities.
  6. Co-design.
[caption id="attachment_27829" align="alignnone" width="216"] The Australian Government's six principles for social impact investing.[/caption]   [post_title] => Social Impact Investing to get $30m [post_excerpt] => The Federal Government has announced a number of initiatives to encourage Social Impact Investing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27828 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-14 14:46:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-14 04:46:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27828 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27798 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 15:36:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-10 05:36:04 [post_content] => The NSW Government has voted down Labor legislation that would decriminalise cannabis possession. The proposed legislation was to ensure that sufferers of terminal and serious medical conditions who rely on medicinal cannabis to ease their pain, would no longer be treated as criminals. The legislation would also create the mechanism to create a safe and lawful supply chain of product, to make access a practical reality for sufferers. The legislation sought to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis (up to 15 grams) for treatment of chronic and serious medical conditions for medically certified sufferers and their carers, requiring them to receive photo identification and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts could be adjusted by regulation, according to medical treatment need. Currently, people who purchase cannabis to alleviate the pain and distress associated with chronic and terminal illnesses face criminal penalties under the Crimes Act (1900). The proposed legislation adopted the key recommendations from a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which received unanimous support from five political parties including NSW Labor, Liberal Party, National Party, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. "The unanimous recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry were delivered in 2013,” said Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council Adam Searle. “Labor has always been ready, willing and able to work with the NSW Government to make access to medicinal cannabis a reality.” “Those who are suffering from terminal and serious medical conditions deserve sympathy and support- and they should not be treated like a criminal for seeking respite from relentless and unwavering illness,” said Opposition Leader Luke Foley. “It is deeply disappointing that the Government has denied legislation that will restore dignity to those people seeking temporary relief from the pain and suffering of their affliction.” A number of other states have already legalised medicinal cannabis use (including Victoria and the ACT), and at one point NSW was expected to  overtake Victoria with the legislation. Illnesses that would be taken to be terminal or serious medical conditions:
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV);
  • motor neurone disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • the neurological disorder known as stiff person syndrome;
  • severe and treatment-resistant nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy;
  • pain associated with cancer;
  • neuropathic pain;
  • an illness or condition declared by the regulations to be a terminal or serious medical condition.
  [post_title] => NSW medicinal cannabis bill fails [post_excerpt] => The NSW Government has voted down legislation that would decriminalise cannabis possession. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-medicinal-cannabis-bill-fails [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:05:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:05:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27798 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27804 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 09:12:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-09 23:12:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption] Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city. In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27784 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-07 13:13:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-07 03:13:10 [post_content] => Parents need a fair and informed choice, writes incoming CEO of Primary Ethics Evan Hannah. Allowing parents to make an informed choice when enrolling their children in NSW public schools is simply a matter of fairness. But in NSW, you cannot enrol your child in ethics classes on the enrolment form, as you can for religious instruction. The burden is on parents to work through the current confusing process before they finally get the chance to access ethics classes for their child. I became involved with ethics education as a volunteer ethics coordinator three years ago at my son’s school in Sydney’s inner west. As an ethics coordinator, I’ve seen that the unfair approach to enrolment into ethics classes continues to frustrate parents and school staff alike. The government has made it as difficult as possible for parents to access ethics classes for their children. It rejected recommendations from an independent report for parents to be provided with better access to information and enrolment opportunities, and it cannot explain why that is fair or reasonable. Quite simply, we just seek equal treatment for all parents. We’ll continue to work with the Department of Education to streamline the enrolment process for both parents and school staff. Who is Primary Ethics? Primary Ethics was established in 2010 at the request of the NSW Government to provide ethics education for children in NSW public schools. From 1,530 students in the first year of classes, Primary Ethics is now taught to more than 36,000 students by 2,500 volunteers in weekly classes at 450 schools across NSW. An ethics program is launched at a new school approximately every 10 days, but the government enrolment policy is a huge impediment to fulfilling the Primary Ethics goal of offering the program to the rest of the estimated 70,000 students who are currently spending one lesson a week in the holding pattern of ‘non-scripture’. The continuing confusion about enrolments obviously affects our growth. We know when one school decides to start Primary Ethics classes, and we train volunteers who then begin teaching, it has a domino effect on nearby schools as awareness grows. Removing the ridiculous block on informed choice would give more NSW children a chance to learn skills to make better decisions. Public support for an ethics-based complement to Special Religious Education (SRE), began in the early 2000s and culminated in an amendment to the NSW Education Act in 2010 to enable Special Education in Ethics (SEE) classes to be delivered alongside religious instruction during the designated timeslot. This was significant, because it was the first time since 1866 that children who did not take scripture could instead take part in an activity of benefit to the child, instead of effectively doing nothing. Until 2010, the Education Act mandated that children who did not attend scripture could not undertake any learning during this timeslot to ensure that children receiving religious instruction did not miss out. Discussion-based ethics classes are facilitated by trained local volunteers using a curriculum written by specialist in philosophy and education, Dr Sue Knight, and reviewed by both an internal committee and the Department of Education. The stage 3 (years 5 & 6) lesson materials were completed in 2011, the first year that the ethics program was rolled out. A new stage-based curriculum was developed each year, and from 2015, the program has been available for delivery across all primary-school stages, from kindergarten to year 6.     We now have an excellent, world-first ethics curriculum available free for communities to use to educate their children. And thanks to donations, we are also able to provide recruitment, screening, and free training and support for volunteers willing to be involved in delivering those lessons. Primary Ethics is the sole provider of ethics classes in NSW. The free program is taught by trained volunteers following a curriculum written for various primary school stages, covering years K-6. The curriculum is approved as age-appropriate by the Department of Education. Evan Hannah is a former journalist and news media manager who became CEO of the not-for-profit organisation in July.     [post_title] => Schools: we need clarity around the ethics option [post_excerpt] => Parents need a fair and informed choice, writes Evan Hannah. 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[caption id="attachment_27770" align="alignnone" width="300"] You create a lot of healthcare data during your life. What happens after it? Tewan Banditrukkanka/Shutterstock[/caption] Jon Cornwall, Victoria University of Wellington Death is inevitable. The creation of healthcare records about every complaint and ailment we seek treatment for is also a near-certainty. Data about patients is a vital cog in the provision of efficient health services. Our study explores what happens to those healthcare records after you die. We focus on New Zealand’s legal situation and practices, but the issue is truly a global one.
Read More: Decades on from Henrietta Lacks, we’re still struggling to find an adequate consent model
Previously, healthcare records were held in paper form and stored in an archive. Next came the advent of digital storage in on-site databases. When you died, your records were either shredded or erased, depending on the technology. But it is now increasingly common for healthcare records to be digitised and held in a central repository. They can potentially be held for an indefinite period after someone dies, depending on the jurisdiction. Should we be worried?

A question of value

Large, population-based healthcare data sets have immense value. This is particularly true of records that include genomic information alongside other healthcare data – a phenomenon that will only increase as information about a person’s genes is more widely used in clinical treatment. These posthumous healthcare data sets, which will grow in size and detail over the coming decades, could tell us a great deal about diseases and heritability. Data sets from generations of families and communities may well be available for research, and able to be analysed. Information on this scale is worth a lot, especially for data storage companies and those with a financial interest in these data sets, such as pharmaceutical companies. Imagine, for instance, if a company could quickly analyse millions of genomes to isolate a disease that could be cured by an engineered pharmaceutical, and the commercial value this would create. So how will this affect the individual whose data is held and their surviving family? Many people would be willing to donate medical records if the downstream result was beneficial for their community and country. Yet the lines become easily blurred. Would it be acceptable if data sets were sent to foreign companies? What if they provided a cure free of charge to the families of citizens whose data they used? How about if the cure was half price, or full price, but the other option was having no cure at all? Would it be all right for companies to make millions of dollars out of this information? There is no easy answer. [caption id="attachment_27771" align="alignnone" width="300"] Every time you visit a doctor’s office, you create data. Keith Bell/Shutterstock[/caption]

What’s the legal situation?

It’s impossible to talk about the long term fate of healthcare data without considering privacy and consent. As part of medical research, for example, participants are required to provide informed consent and often the gathered data are anonymised. Access to posthumous medical records, on the other hand, is not highly regulated or protected in most countries, and the laws surrounding access are incredibly unclear. In New Zealand, a deceased person has no privacy rights under the Privacy Act. And while healthcare data has to be held for a minimum of 10 years after death, the regulatory body which is then custodian of that data may decide - broadly - what purposes it may be used for. Given that the custodian can be anyone from a health board or local doctor to a commercial institution that stores health records, the situation is exceedingly vague.
Read More: Human embryo CRISPR advances science but let’s focus on ethics, not world firsts
It is often argued that use of anonymous data sets do not require consent from an individual – in our case, a deceased person cannot provide this anyway. However the lines of true “anonymity” are becoming more blurred, particularly thanks to genomics. Your own genome is partly that of your family and relatives. They may also have an emotional stake, and possibly a legal stake, in any action or research where the genome of a deceased family member is involved. The medical profession has not always dealt well with consent and ethics issues. In one infamous case, the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks – a 31-year-old American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 – have been used thousands of times in research projects. She unwittingly made an invaluable contribution to global health, yet she never consented and her family was not consulted. Then there is the fact that if large data bases are readily available, the possibility of data linkage increases – matching data sets that may belong to the same person – potentially undermining the ability to maintain true anonymity for the individual and their family.

What happens now?

The New Zealand and Australian governments have signalled that healthcare data are a widely underused resource. Commercialisation of such data is a possibility. At some point, large posthumous healthcare data sets from these countries could potentially be accessed by researchers and private institutions around the world. It is time for the public to decide what they think is reasonable. If the use of posthumous healthcare data is not aligned with the wishes of society, especially its desire for anonymity, the trust between our healthcare providers and patients may become compromised. The ConversationHealthcare data sets have immense value, but the public must be consulted about their use. Only then can the potential of posthumous healthcare data sets be properly realised. Jon Cornwall, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health, Victoria University of Wellington This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Healthcare records: take them to the grave? [post_excerpt] => Our healthcare records outlive us. It's time to decide what happens to the data once we're gone. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27766 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-07 15:08:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-07 05:08:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27766 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27757 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-03 19:42:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-03 09:42:31 [post_content] => The popular idea that the economic divide between Australia’s cities and regions is getting bigger is a misconception, according to new Grattan Institute research. The working paper Regional patterns of Australia’s economy and population shows that beneath the oft-told ‘tale of two Australias’ is a more nuanced story. Income growth and employment rates are not obviously worse in regional areas. Cities and regions both have pockets of disadvantage, as well as areas with healthy income growth and low unemployment. And while cities have higher average incomes, the gap in incomes between the cities and the regions is not getting wider. Grattan Institute CEO John Daley said the research casts doubt on the idea that regional Australians are increasingly voting for minor parties because the regions are getting a raw deal compared to the cities. “Given that people in regions have generally fared as well as those in cities over the past decade, major parties may need to look beyond income and employment to discover why dissatisfaction among regional voters is increasing,” he says. The paper shows that the highest taxable incomes in Australia are in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, followed by Cottesloe in Perth and Stonnington in eastern Melbourne. The lowest taxable incomes are in Tasmania and the regions of the east-coast states, especially the far north coast of NSW, central Victoria and southern Queensland. But income growth in the regions has kept pace with income growth in the cities over the past decade. The lowest income growth was typically in suburban areas of major cities. While unemployment varies between regions, it is not noticeably worse in the regions overall. Some of the biggest increases in unemployment over the past five years were along transport ‘spines’ in cities, such as the Ipswich to Carole Park corridor in Brisbane and the Dandenong to Pakenham corridor in Melbourne. The biggest difference between regions and cities is that inland regional populations are generally growing slower – particularly in non-mining states. Cities are attracting many more migrants, particularly from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The east coast ‘sea change’ towns are also getting larger, but unemployment is relatively high. The research will contribute to a forthcoming Grattan Institute report examining why the vote for minor parties has risen rapidly over the past decade, particularly in regional electorates. Read the full report here.   [post_title] => City-country divide: not as wide as you may think [post_excerpt] => That the economic divide between Australia’s cities and regions is getting bigger is a misconception. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => city-country-divide-not-wide-may-think [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-03 19:47:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-03 09:47:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27757 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27740 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-01 10:32:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-01 00:32:28 [post_content] => Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Ministerial Advisory Panel (the Panel) has been working on developing a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying framework for Victoria. The Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee (the Parliamentary Committee) provided a broad policy direction for voluntary assisted dying that focused on allowing a person to self-administer a lethal dose of medication. The role of the Panel was to consider how this could work in practice and to ensure only those making voluntary and informed decisions and at the end of their life could access voluntary assisted dying. The Panel determined that voluntary assisted dying implementation should be considered in the context of existing care options available to people at the end of life. Guiding principles In formulating its recommendations, the Panel relied on a number of guiding principles. These principles are that:
  • Every human life has equal value.
  • A person’s autonomy should be respected.
  • A person has the right to be supported in making informed decisions about their medical treatment and should be given, in a manner that they understand, information about medical treatment options, including comfort and palliative care.
  • Every person approaching the end of life should have access to quality care to minimise their suffering and maximise their quality of life.
  • The therapeutic relationship between a person and their health practitioner should, wherever possible, be supported and maintained.
  • Open discussions about death and dying and peoples’ preferences and values should be encouraged and promoted.
  • Conversations about treatment and care preferences between the health practitioner, a person and their family, carers and community should be supported.
  • Providing people with genuine choice must be balanced with the need to safeguard people who might be subject to abuse.
  • All people, including health practitioners, have the right to be shown respect for their culture, beliefs, values and personal characteristics.
The Panel recognised the need to balance respect for autonomy with safeguarding individuals and communities in relation to voluntary assisted dying. The Panel believes that the eligibility criteria, the process to access voluntary assisted dying, and the oversight measures recommended appropriately balance these aims. Eligibility criteria To access voluntary assisted dying, a person must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
  • be an adult, 18 years and over; and
  • be ordinarily resident in Victoria and an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
  • be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition, that:
    • is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
    • is expected to cause death within weeks or months, but not longer than 12 months; and
    • is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.
The recommended eligibility criteria ensure voluntary assisted dying will allow a small number of people, at the end of their lives, to choose the timing and manner of their death. There is no intention to give people who are not dying access, and the legislation will not give these people an option to choose between living and dying. The eligibility criteria ensure the voluntary assisted dying framework provides a compassionate response to people who are close to death and choose to request voluntary assisted dying to give them greater control over the timing and manner of their death. The Panel recommends that a person must have decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process. This requirement is fundamental to ensuring a person’s decision to access voluntary assisted dying is their own, is voluntary, and is not the product of undue influence or coercion. The Panel recognises that this will mean some people who may want to request voluntary assisted dying will be excluded. People with dementia who do not have decision-making capacity, for example, will not be able to access voluntary assisted dying. People will also not be able to request voluntary assisted dying in an advance care directive. This may disappoint many people in the community, but the Panel is of the view that having decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process is a fundamental safeguard. In addition, the Panel sets out detailed guidelines as to the qualifications of the medical personnel involved in the approval process, as well as the actual procedure and safeguards in regards to the handling and disposal of the medications used in the voluntary assisted dying process. The full report is available here. [post_title] => Voluntary Assisted Dying: how the Victorians will do it [post_excerpt] => Victoria has developed a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying framework. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => voluntary-assisted-dying-victorians-will [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-01 11:33:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-01 01:33:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27740 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27731 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-31 21:13:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-31 11:13:05 [post_content] => Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) will soon roll out the GoShare patient education platform to 800 health professionals in Western Victoria. GoShare allows health professionals to share engaging, timely and evidence-based health resources with patients, empowering them to play a more active role in their healthcare. Developer of the platform and founder of health promotion company Healthily Dr Tina Campbell said GoShare is an easy-to-use tool for health professionals, which includes health information in a variety of formats (video, animation, text, apps) to accommodate a range of learning styles. Used to complement face-to-face or telehealth interactions, the resources are designed to build the knowledge, skills and confidence of patients, particularly in relation to the self-management of chronic conditions. CEO WVPHN Leanne Beagley said the size and spread of the region meant there was a need for a new approach: “With a population in excess of 600,000 people, Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) is focused on ensuring better health outcomes for the rural and regional communities across western Victoria. “We are partnering with Healthily to provide local general practitioners and other health care providers with up to date health information for their patients. GoShare is an innovative patient self-management technology platform that will support people to be as independent as possible if they live with a chronic condition, will help prevent complications and potentially the need to go into hospital.” Dr Tina Campbell said there was now considerable evidence that interventions that promote patient empowerment and the acquisition of self-management skills are effective in diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions. In addition, research shows that Australians of all ages are embracing the digital life. According to the ACMA 2014 Report 92% of adult Australians use the internet with 68% of those aged 65 years engaging online. In 2014, people aged 55 and over showed the largest increase in app downloads. GoShare’s functionality makes it easy for health professionals to provide care that is responsive to individual patient preferences and needs. Ms Beagley said: “The platform is ‘patient-centred’ supporting health professionals to efficiently tailor and personalise information that responds to questions, concerns or interests expressed in a face-to-face or telephone consultation. “It’s about ensuring patients have access to the right information at the right time, to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to manage their health to the best of their ability.” “In essence, the health professional sends an online ‘information prescription’ to their patients or clients. Depending on the preference of the client these content bundles can be sent via SMS or email,” Dr Tina Campbell said. Another aspect of the GoShare patient education is the ability of patients to share information with their carers, families and friends. “Patients and their families play a central role in the successful management of chronic health conditions,” Dr Campbell said. “This includes appropriately monitoring their health, regulating lifestyle behaviours, and dealing effectively with the emotional and social stresses associated with being chronically ill. “Research proves that listening to people in similar circumstances sharing their health experiences and insights is a very effective way of engaging patients and improving their confidence about their ability to self-manage their condition.” Western Victoria PHN will roll out the GoShare platform in September this year. In stage one, the tool will primarily be used within general practice, followed by a rollout to pharmacies.     [post_title] => Western Victoria Health to roll out education platform [post_excerpt] => WVPHN will soon roll out the GoShare patient education platform to 800 health professionals. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => western-victoria-health-roll-education-platform [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-31 21:13:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-31 11:13:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27731 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27716 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 09:30:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:30:30 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27719" align="alignnone" width="275"] Left to right: David Quilty, Brad Butt, Thanh Le, and Tim Kelsey.[/caption] The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) and Pharmacy Guild of Australia (the Guild) have signed an agreement to work together to help build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality and delivery of healthcare. Both strong advocates for the widespread adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacists to better the health of the public, the Agency and the Guild have now entered into a collaborative partnership aimed at driving adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacies (supported by education and training) and maximising the medicines safety benefits. The role of community pharmacists in delivering proper use of medicines is more important than ever, with an aging population and the growing prevalence of complex, chronic disease. All medicines have the potential for side effects and can interact with other medicines. Each year 230,000 people are admitted to hospital, and many more people experience reduced quality of life, as a result of unintended side effects of their medicines. This comes at a cost to the system of more than $1.2 billion. “The Agency and the Guild have a mutual interest in continuing to develop and deliver community pharmacy digital health that will lead to significant improvements in the quality and delivery of care to consumers. Specifically, the Agency and Guild will be working on optimising connectivity to the My Health Record system through dedicated community pharmacy support, including continuing professional development and shared care planning, transitional care, telehealth and interoperability with pharmacy clinical service IT platforms,” said agency chief executive Tim Kelsey. “The Guild welcomes this collaboration with the Agency as a step towards optimised integration of community pharmacies in the My Health Record system. Community pharmacists have long been early adopters and innovators in digital health, and this will spur the sector on to make an even bigger contribution,” guild executive director David Quilty said. Digital records pilot for hospital patients On the hospital front, patients requiring urgent medical care will benefit from a hospital emergency department pilot that gives clinicians fast, secure access to health information such as allergies and medicines that may not otherwise be available in hospital information systems. The pilot will help drive the uptake of My Health Record, a digital system that enables healthcare providers to share secure health data and improves the safety and quality of patient care. To date, over 5 million people have a My Health Record and over 10,143 healthcare providers are connected. “Where My Health Record is being utilised, we are seeing reductions in duplicated testing and lower hospital re-admission rates. “However, we need to identify potential barriers to the uptake of My Health Record in hospitals, and enable better integration with primary and secondary healthcare providers,” Mr Kelsey said. The pilot was announced by the Agency in partnership with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Commission CEO Adjunct Professor Debora Picone AM said that when a patient presents to an emergency department, hospitals can have limited information about the patient and a limited window to provide lifesaving treatment. “It is time-consuming for hospital staff to gain information on the patient’s medicines, what their GP has been doing to manage the condition, and the procedures provided by other hospitals. This time could be better used treating the patient,” Professor Picone said. The pilot is based on the successful My Health Record participation trials conducted by the Nepean Blue Mountains and the Northern Queensland Primary Health Networks. These trials demonstrated that clinicians working in hospital emergency departments were able to obtain valuable additional information by accessing My Health Record in real time. The pilot is expected to take two years with an interim report due to the Agency in June 2018.   [post_title] => Pharmacies, emergency departments to go digital [post_excerpt] => Pharmacy Guild, emergency departments to trial with Digital Health Agency. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pharmacies-emergency-departments-go-digital [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 09:30:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:30:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27716 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27681 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 18:00:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 08:00:17 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23593" align="alignnone" width="300"] Centrelink is using the services of spyware company, Cellebrite.[/caption] Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Deakin University, and Ian Warren, Deakin University An Australian Tax Office (ATO) staffer recently leaked on LinkedIn a step-by-step guide to hacking a smartphone. The documents, which have since been removed, indicate that the ATO has access to Universal Forensic Extraction software made by the Israeli company Cellebrite. This technology is part of a commercial industry that profits from bypassing the security features of devices to gain access to private data. The ATO later stated that while it does use these methods to aid criminal investigations, it “does not monitor taxpayers’ mobile phones or remotely access their mobile devices”. Nevertheless, the distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. This is generally considered to be lawful surveillance. But without proper oversight, there are serious risks to the proliferation of these tools, here and around the world. The dangers of the spyware market The spyware market is estimated to be worth millions of dollars globally. And as Canadian privacy research group Citizen Lab has noted, spyware vendors have been willing to sell their wares to autocratic governments. There are numerous examples of spyware being used by states with dubious human-rights records. These include the surveillance of journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates, including more recently by the Mexican government and in the United Arab Emirates. In Bahrain, the tools have reportedly been used to silence political dissent. Commercial spyware often steps in when mainstream technology companies resist cooperating with law enforcement because of security concerns. In 2016, for example, Apple refused to assist the FBI in circumventing the security features of an iPhone. Apple claimed that being forced to redesign their products could undermine the security and privacy of all iPhone users. The FBI eventually dropped its case against Apple, and it was later reported the FBI paid almost US$1.3 million to a spyware company, reportedly Cellebrite, for technology to hack the device instead. This has never been officially confirmed. For its part, Cellebrite claims on its website to provide technologies allowing “investigators to quickly extract, decode, analyse and share evidence from mobile devices”. Its services are “widely used by federal government customers”, it adds. Spyware merchants and the Australian Government The Australian government has shown considerable appetite for spyware. Tender records show Cellebrite currently holds Australian government contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the specific details of these contracts remain unclear. Fairfax Media has reported that the ATO, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Department of Employment , Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of Defence all have contracts with Cellebrite. The Department of Human Services has had a contract with Cellebrite, and Centrelink apparently uses spyware to hack the phones of suspected welfare frauds. In 2015 WikiLeaks released emails from Hacking Team, an Italian spyware company. These documents revealed negotiations with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the AFP and other law enforcement agencies.

Laws and licensing

In Australia, the legality of spyware use varies according to government agency. Digital forensics tools are used with a warrant by the ATO to conduct federal criminal investigations. A warrant is typically required before Australian police agencies can use spyware. ASIO, on the other hand, has its own powers, and those under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, that enable spyware use when authorised by the attorney-general. ASIO also has expanded powers to hack phones and computer networks. These powers raise concerns about the adequacy of independent oversight. International control of these tools is also being considered. The Wassenaar Arrangement, of which Australia is participant, is an international export control regime that aims to limit the movement of goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. But there are questions about whether this agreement can be enforced. Security experts also question whether it could criminalise some forms of cybersecurity research and limit the exchange of important encryption technology. Australia has export control laws that apply to intrusion software, but the process lacks transparency about the domestic export of spyware technologies to overseas governments. Currently, there are few import controls. There are also moves to regulate spyware through licensing schemes. For example, Singapore is considering a license for ethical hackers. This could potentially improve transparency and control of the sale of intrusion software. It’s also concerning that “off-the-shelf” spyware is readily accessible to the public.

‘War on math’ and government hacking

The use of spyware in Australia should be viewed alongside the recent announcement of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s so-called war on maths. The prime minister has announced laws will be introduced obliging technology companies to intercept encrypted communications to fight terrorism and other crimes. This is part of a general appetite to undermine security features that are designed to provide the public at large with privacy and safety when using smartphones and other devices. Despite the prime minister’s statements to the contrary, these policies can’t help but force technology companies to build backdoors into, or otherwise weaken or undermine, encrypted messaging services and the security of the hardware itself. While the government tries to bypass encryption, spyware technologies already rely on the inherent weaknesses of our digital ecosystem. This is a secretive, lucrative and unregulated industry with serious potential for abuse. The ConversationThere needs to be more transparency, oversight and strong steps toward developing a robust framework of accountability for both the government and private spyware companies. Monique Mann, Lecturer, School of Justice, Researcher at the Crime and Justice Research Centre and Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University; and Ian Warren, Senior Lecturer, Criminology, Deakin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Spyware merchants: the risks of outsourcing government hacking [post_excerpt] => The distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spyware-merchants-risks-outsourcing-government-hacking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:20:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:20:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27681 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27671 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content] => Australians are selective about when they support sharing personal data with government agencies and commercial organisations via the Internet of Things, according to the 2017 Unisys Security Index. The vast majority of Australians, 82 per cent, support using a button on their phone or smartwatch to alert police to their location during emergencies. Yet only 35 per cent support police being able to monitor fitness tracker data anytime to determine their location at a certain time. The findings indicate that Australians will embrace IoT where they see a compelling reason such as personal safety and medical emergencies, but concerns about privacy and data security mean they want to be able to control which organisations can access their data. Most Australians support (75 per cent of respondents) medical devices such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors automatically transmitting significant changes to a patient’s doctor, and sensors in luggage to advise passengers if their luggage has been unloaded and what carousel it will be on (65 per cent). Yet less than one in three people support using a smartwatch app to make payments (29 per cent), or a health insurer accessing fitness tracker data to determine a premium or reward customers for good behaviour (26 per cent). The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices, sensors or computer systems that can connect and exchange information with each other using the internet. Unisys examined consumer reaction to the trend as part of a global study that gauges the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security issues. The study polled 1,002 adults in Australia during April 2017. “These findings highlight that when it comes to personal data there is a very delicate balance between privacy, security and convenience – even for organisations generally trusted by the public,” said John Kendall, director of border and national security programs at Unisys. “For example, people are happy to use their smartwatch to alert police to their location when they need help, but they don’t want police to freely access that data at any time – they want to control when they share their data.” What are the barriers to IoT? Privacy and security concerns are key reasons Australians do not support IoT. In particular, if they do not feel it is a compelling enough reason to share their data or if they do not want an organisation to have such data about them. Data security is the biggest barrier cited for not supporting a smartwatch payment app. Richard Parker, vice president financial services at Unisys Asia Pacific said: “To address consumer concern around data security of smartwatch payment channels, banks need a multi-pronged approach that spans technology and policies to secure the data, as well as reassuring customers by communicating the steps taken by the bank to protect them – a fine line in delivering a frictionless customer experience whilst making sure they are secure.” Devices on government agency personnel are supported Wearable biometrics are part of the IoT phenomenon: wearable technology that analyses human characteristics to confirm an identity or monitor critical medical data. There is strong support, three in four Australians, for police or border security staff wearing facial recognition body cameras to identify criminals or terrorists who are on watch lists; and medical sensors transmitting any significant changes to a patient’s doctor. Fingerprint scans on smartwatches could address the security concerns around smartwatch payment apps. “Approximately half of consumers support a fingerprint scan to control access to data on a smartwatch (52 per cent) or to authorise a payment from the smartwatch (48 per cent). This is a clear signal to banks that biometrics could help alleviate consumer concerns about smartwatch payment channels,” said Mr Parker. While 50 per cent of Australians support airline staff wearing facial recognition glasses to verify the identity of passengers boarding aircraft at airports, only 29 per cent support the same glasses being used to identify VIP customers for special treatment. John Kendall said: “Respondents see it as a trade-off: is it a compelling enough reason for that organisation to capture this information about me? The findings reveal law enforcement, national security and serious medical conditions are considered acceptable justification, but customer loyalty programs and employee tracking are not – the impact on privacy outweighs the personal benefit.” Support for data analytics varies Support for analysis of data collected from a range of sources also varies – even among different government agencies. Fifty-seven per cent of Australians support border security officers analysing the travel history of passengers, and whom they are travelling with, to determine if they are eligible for fast-track border clearance. Yet only 40 per cent support welfare agencies accessing personal spending data from credit card records and insurance policies to verify if benefit claims are legitimate, and even less (32 per cent) support the tax office using the same data to verify income tax returns. Furthermore, the majority of Australians do not support data analytics being used to sell goods and services to them. Sixty-two per cent do not support banks monitoring individual customer spending behaviour to offer related products such as insurance for items they have purchased. Richard Parker said the use of data analytics must be sensitive to customer concerns. “Customers expect businesses to know them based on the history of their relationship. In a world where interactions may be across a range of channels and not just in person, many organisations are turning to data analytics to provide extra insight. Ironically, while they may be trying to improve the customer experience, if businesses cross the line and appear to invade their privacy by revealing that they know more about them than what the customer has knowingly shared, it just turns the customer off. Technology alone is not enough; it must be used in the context of understanding human nature and cultural norms.”   [post_title] => Privacy is paramount [post_excerpt] => People want control over when they share personal data via Internet of Things and data analytics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => privacy-is-paramount [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27671 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27665 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content] => An ACCC report into the private health insurance industry has found that affordability of private health insurance remains a significant concern for consumers. The complexity of policy information provided by insurers is another key issue, reflected in increasing complaints about the industry. “Our report found that people are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits,” ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said. “We are also concerned that consumers continue to have trouble understanding their policies, particularly when they are trying to make a claim. “It is in the interests of both insurers and their customers to be clear and transparent about policy details. This helps people to make informed decisions about the level of insurance cover they need and can afford,” Ms Rickard said. Key industry developments and trends in 2015-16:
  • The affordability of insurance remains a significant concern for consumers, which is supported by research that shows household spending on private health insurance premiums has increased steadily over the past decade.
  • Consumers are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits. Between June 2014 and June 2016 there was a 400,000 reduction in hospital policies with no exclusions (which can be equated with ‘top cover’), whilst an additional 600,000 hospital policies with exclusions were taken out.
  • The amount of hospital benefits paid by health insurers per person increased by 4.2 per cent, along with a 2.9 per cent increase in general benefits per person.
  • Average out-of-pocket expenses incurred by consumers from hospital episodes increased by 6.9 per cent, compared to only 0.7 per cent for general treatments.
  • Overall consumer complaints to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) rose for the third consecutive financial year, although the year-on-year increase of 3.5 per cent followed much larger increases of nearly 16 per cent in 2013-14 and 24.5 per cent in 2014-15.
  • The PHIO continued to receive the highest level of complaints regarding the benefits paid by insurers to consumers (over 30 per cent of total complaints in 2015-16). The main issue of consumer concern relating to benefits was hospital policies with unexpected exclusions and restrictions.
  • Consumers increasingly rely on information provided by commercial comparison websites when making decisions about their private health insurance. Around 40 per cent of consumers who made comparisons between insurers prior to selecting their current policy utilised a commercial comparison website, such as iSelect and Compare the Market, to assist their decision making.
Each year, the ACCC is required by the Senate to produce a report on key competition and consumer developments and trends impacting on people’s health cover. This report covers the 2015-16 period. The report is available here. The ACCC has recently taken action: Not good enough: dentists The Senate inquiry must go further than ACCC and hold private health insurers accountable, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), as the report neglects to unequivocally call out private health insurers’ anticompetitive behaviour. The ADA is urging the Senate Inquiry into private health insurance to highlight the damage health insurer practices, such as discriminatory rebate practices and the shift towards a conflicted corporatised insurer-owned dental practice model impacts on consumers’ continuity of care and quality of treatment, and recommend legislative change to outlaw such practices. General treatment or ancillary policies also known as ‘extras cover’, cover more Australians (13.5 million) than hospital policies (11.4 million). The majority (52%) of claims paid out to policy holders are for dental care. The Senate inquiry must scrutinise private health insurers’ activities as they impact on policy holders accessing ancillary health services, including dentistry. ADA federal president Dr Hugo Sachs strongly criticised the ACCC report: “While the ACCC report outlined some thrust of the ADA’s concerns, it has downplayed the significance of insurers’ actions on patients’ access to continuity of care, on their ability to receive value for money, and on the overall competitive impacts on the dental sector. Stating that certain behaviour ‘does not represent best practice’ does not cut it. “Not all policy holders are treated equal. For years, insurers have imposed a regime of discriminatory rebates. If you want to maintain your relationship with your existing dentist who chooses not to be contracted to an insurer, you get less back on your claim. You get less back even though you pay the same amount of premium for the same policy as another person. This practice, combined with reports we have about insurers’ call centre staff shifting the blame for their own discriminatory rebates by suggesting the non-contracted dentist’s fees are expensive is misleading and deceptive; not to mention distorting the market by steering policy holders away to their own affiliated or owned dental practices.” Over the years, insurers have also used their claim processes to obtain sensitive price and fee information from non-contracted dentists to ultimately set up competing dental practices and inform their rebate setting practices. Dr Sachs continued: “This model of corporate/insurer owned and run health services should not be permitted. There is a glaring conflict of interest. An insurer owns the practice, employs the health practitioner, determines the fee for the service at one end and also sets the rebate the policy holders get back at the other end, and is vulnerable to pressure from shareholders to deliver a return. Ultimately, policy holders stand to lose in the long term.” Public hospitals overrun: ambulance The health cover report comes at a time when the NSW Ambulance Service is highlighting the shortage of beds. On several days so far this winter, NSW Ambulance paramedics have found some of Sydney’s largest hospitals struggling to maintain services because they were full. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) is concerned that hospital bed block has all but paralysed Liverpool Hospital, Bankstown Hospital and Fairfield Hospital over a number of days.  “Ambulance crews are being stuck at these hospitals waiting for hours, tending to patients on ambulance trolleys in the hallways because Emergency Departments are being overwhelmed and each of these large hospitals is full,” said APA (NSW) president Steve Pearce. “We have seen up to ten ambulances queued up for hours at Liverpool Hospital unable to unload patients and that is pushing the already stretched resources of NSW Ambulance, making it very difficult to service the public,” Mr Pearce said. “NSW Ambulance does not employ enough paramedics to manage the normal workload around the state, let alone during a huge surge like this. “The hospitals are full with a lot of very sick patients and we are seeing new patients with a range of ailments and injuries having to wait way too long to see a doctor. “This coincides with the height of the flu season but there simply are not enough hospital beds or enough ambulances on the road to handle the demand.” [post_title] => ACCC, ADA, Ambulances concerned about health cover and hospitals [post_excerpt] => Whilst an ACCC report blasts the health insurers, dentist and ambulance paramedics say more needs to be done. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => accc-ada-ambulances-concerned-health-cover-hospitals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27665 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27860 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-18 09:53:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-17 23:53:31 [post_content] => The Auditor-General for New South Wales Margaret Crawford has released her report, in which she finds that NSW Health’s approach to planning and evaluating palliative care is not effectively coordinated. There is no overall policy framework for palliative and end-of-life care, nor is there comprehensive monitoring and reporting on services and outcomes. “NSW Health has a limited understanding of the quantity and quality of palliative care services across the state, which reduces its ability to plan for future demand and the workforce needed to deliver it,” said the Auditor-General. “At the district level, planning is sometimes ad hoc and accountability for performance is unclear.” Local Health Districts’ ability to plan, deliver and improve their services is hindered by:
  • Multiple disjointed information systems and manual data collection.
  • Not universally using a program that collects data on patient outcomes for benchmarking and quality improvement.
NSW Health should create an integrated policy framework that clearly defines interfaces between palliative and end-of-life care, articulates priorities and objectives and is supported by a performance and reporting framework. NSW Health should improve the collection and use of outcomes data and improve information systems to support palliative care services and provide comprehensive data for service planning. The  Auditor-General made four recommendations that called for the development of an integrated palliative and end-of-life care policy framework; proper data collection on patient outcomes; a state-wide review of systems and reporting for end of life management; and improved stakeholder engagement. Some improvements evident Over the last two years, NSW Health has taken steps to improve its planning and support for Local Health Districts. The NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation has produced an online resource that will assist districts to construct their own, localised models of care. And eHealth, which coordinates information communication technology for the state’s healthcare, aims to integrate and improve information systems. These initiatives should help to address many of the issues now inhibiting integrated service delivery, reporting on activity and outcomes, and planning for the future. NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord welcomed the report, saying it provided a roadmap for the State Government to improve end-of-life care in NSW. “As a prosperous nation, Australia and NSW have the means to ensure that the final years, months and days of elderly people and those with terminal diseases are lived in dignity,” Mr Secord said. “In my view our prosperity brings an obligation to do no less. “We have to recognise that palliative care is a field that will only grow as Australians now have the longest life expectancy in the English-speaking world. “Accordingly, we need a government response that embraces helping people to remain independent in their homes by finding ways to expand home and community care,” Mr Secord said. A full copy of the report is on the Audit Office website.   [post_title] => Palliative care: NSW Health must improve [post_excerpt] => NSW Health has a limited understanding of the quantity and quality of palliative care services across the state. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => palliative-care-nsw-health-must-improve [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-18 10:28:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-18 00:28:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27860 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 397 [max_num_pages] => 29 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 7104d1e4a6b0a0d6c68e1595a0fc2585 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

Health & Social Services