Health Specialists To Help Solomons Dengue Fight

Plight Of Rural Specialist Shows Registration Process Needs Rethink, Australia

A team of health specialists from Australia and Fiji has arrived in Solomon Islands to tackle an outbreak of dengue fever. Since the first case was reported four months ago, the virus has continued to spread quickly. Three people have died and there are at least 2,500 suspected cases of dengue fever, mostly in the capital Honiara. However Dr Yvan Souares, who manages the Health Protection program at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, says the virus could easily spread to other regions. “Population movements between the capital city and the various provinces are of course are very important in countries like the Solomon Islands and especially of course you are aware of the tsunami and all the damages that affected the provice of Temotu,” he said. “Currently the public health systems in the Solomons is very stretched out.” The strain of dengue fever is one which hasn’t been seen in the Pacific for 30 years. Dr Souares says it’s also never been reported in Solomon Islands. “You have to exercise some caution in interpreting these facts – because the recording in some countries like the Solomons is not fully reliable,” he said. “Historical data never mention this strain in the Solomons in the past, but that does not mean it do not reach there. “But…it seems that a lot of the population is not immune to the virus – hence the high number of cases and the spread to a lot of provinces now.” Dr Souares says it’s important to reiterate that the current virus in the Solomons is no different to any previous outbreak. “It’s a little bit like influenza virus, which circulates amongst a population…and when it reaches a population which has not seen that virus for a while, the fringe of that population is therefore susceptible to the virus,” he said. “There’s no specific harm that’s being caused by this virus because of its changes in genetics for example – there’s no such thing going on.” Topics:

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RDAA is calling for a model that enables specialist OTDs to be assessed on the scope of practice of individual practitioners, rather than requiring them to be credentialed in areas of medicine they don’t utilise. RDAA has written to the Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing’s Inquiry into the Registration Processes and Support for Overseas Trained Doctors, to outline its concerns. “Local and even regional availability of medical specialists can significantly improve the health outcomes of rural and remote Australians, helping to avoid long delays in diagnosis and treatment. It also alleviates the financial and emotional hardship associated with the need to travel long distances for these services” RDAA President, Dr Paul Mara, said. “Unfortunately, however, rural communities have a relatively low number of specialists per head of population. “RDAA completely agrees that where specialist OTDs seek to work in Australia, registration processes must be able to objectively assess whether they meet the same rigorous standards applied to Australian-trained specialists. “However, where these doctors are already practising in Australia in an area of need, these processes should be practical and relevant to their current scope of practice…and they should be capable of determining whether these specialists are already meeting the health needs of their patients in a safe and clinically appropriate manner.” Dr Christoph Ahrens has practised as an orthopaedic surgeon in Bega, a designated area of medical workforce need, for almost six years. Yet he is currently at risk of being deregistered within the next six weeks under the new registration process for OTDs because he has not yet undertaken his Australian surgical fellowship. “This would necessitate him leaving Bega for at least 12 months to undertake the fellowship, many parts of which are not relevant to his current practice” Dr Mara said. “For example, it covers subspecialties such as spinal surgery and paediatric surgery which would be inappropriate for an orthopaedic surgeon to perform at a small rural hospital that does not have the necessary supports for such surgery. “Dr Ahren’s concerns, and his desire to remain practising in Bega, have been supported by the Bega Medical Staff Council and the local community. “We are not necessarily arguing that Dr Ahrens should be given registration without undergoing assessment. But his case highlights the fact that specialist OTD registration needs more flexibility, because in cases like this there is a real chance that a rural community crying out for local specialist care is going to be denied it for no good reason. “This is a very worrying situation that we would ask Minister Roxon to urgently act on, as it has potential to impact on the availability of specialist care across regional, rural and remote Australia.” Source:

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