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Health Bulletin 6 September 2021

The latest insights from our Health Law team: 

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AIHW: “Bad backs costing us big bucks”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report called ‘Disease expenditure in Australia 2018-19’. The report concerns the expenditure of Australians across the health system. The aim of the report is to promote ‘understanding the relationships between disease burden, population ageing and health spending’.

It was found that in 2018-19, $195.7 billion was spent across the health system, with recurrent health spending attributed to specific diseases and conditions comprising $136 billion (73%). Of the amount that was spent on recurrent health issues, it was found Australians were spending the most on following diseases and conditions:

  • musculoskeletal disorders ($14 billion);
  • cardiovascular diseases ($11.8 billion);
  • cancer and other neoplasms ($11.8 billion); and
  • mental and substance use disorders ($10.5 billion).

The report also found that health expenditure increases with age, with the highest amount being spent in healthcare by people aged between 70 and 74 years old. However, it was identified that women appear to spend more between the ages of 20 and 45 years old, which can be attributed to birth and reproduction related conditions. The highest expenditure on specific conditions by both men and women includes ‘falls, osteoarthritis and coronary heart disease’.

The report further explores the statistics of other diseases and conditions affecting Australians.

To read the full report, click here.

Falling infant and child mortality rates are not equal across NSW

On 24 August 2021, the NSW Ombudsman released the Biennial report of the deaths of children in New South Wales: 2018 and 2019. The report found that infant and child mortality rates across NSW have fallen considerably since 2005. Over the 15-year period from 2005 to 2019, the mortality rate for infants aged less than one declined by 30%. Similarly, for children aged one to 17 years old, the rate dropped by 26%.

The report also found that the leading cause of death over the past five years differed according to age:

  • For infants: the leading cause of death was perinatal conditions.
  • For children aged one to four years, five to nine years and 10 to 14 years old: the leading cause of death was cancers and tumours.
  • For young people: the leading cause of death was suicide.

However, the report also highlighted that children who have higher mortality rates than others include:

  • those living in the most disadvantaged areas of NSW;
  • those living in regional and remote areas;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) infants and children; and
  • families with a child protection history.

In contrast to the overall decline of mortality rates, the report found that suicide among young people aged 10 to 17 has increased by 47% over the past 15 years. In 2018 and 2019, suicide was the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 17 years, with ATSI children having a much higher rate of suicide than non-Indigenous children. Further, it was found that more males than females have died due to suicide, with this gender gap increasing over the last five years.

To find out more from the report, please click here.

Stuck in COVID vaccine limbo: solution needed for those who have received two different shots

The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) does not currently recognise people who have received two different COVID-19 vaccines as being fully vaccinated. A number of Australians find themselves in this situation and calls are now being raised for a solution.

The Department of Health (DoH) and Services Australia are “actively working” to find a solution but no official statement has been issued as yet.

There is a wide range of reasons why a person may have received two difference vaccines. For example, some Australians who were previously overseas received their first vaccine of a type that is not currently available in Australia. Some Australians have also been advised not to receive the same vaccine that they initially received due to an adverse reaction to the first dose or changing medical advice.

Services Australia and the AIR have acknowledged that the number of people who find themselves in this situation is significant. A DoH spokesperson has told newsGP that, “The Department of Health is actively working with Services Australia so that individuals who have received a mixed dose schedule due to special circumstances … will receive a COVID-19 certificate.”

With proof of being fully vaccinated likely to be of increasing significance over the coming months, this will be of critical importance to those who have received a mixed-vaccine schedule.

Some studies have suggested that receiving mixed vaccinations can result in immunisation that is equivalent to or even greater than receiving two doses of the same vaccine. However, there has been no official statement on this point as yet. Currently, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) still recommends the same vaccine dose be used for the initial vaccination process, unless there are specific medical contraindications or the same vaccine brand is unavailable.

Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme: A Breakdown

Health providers with commercial tenancy portfolios as landlord or tenant, will be aware that the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme Regulations were published on 24 August 2021 (CTRS). The CTRS provides a framework for eligible tenants to claim rent relief where their business is impacted by COVID-19. Our Property and Development team break down the key aspects of the CTRS for landlords and tenants. You can read the full Russell Kennedy Alert here.

If you require further information, please contact our health focused property lawyers Samantha Taylor or Caroline Snaidr.

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