Spam Journalism #72

By Jim McVeagh 06/04/2010

Spam Journalism: The spurious use of sensational headlines to add spice to an otherwise pointless article.

After having been too tired to spot that yesterday’s “Black Easter” post was yet another example of spam journalism, I thought I had better redeem myself. There is nothing like a quick flick to the health articles to find sensationalist spam. Journalists just can’t help themselves.

Lack of Govt cash kills family-health

One of the groups planning an overhaul of primary healthcare services has given up on creating “integrated family heath centres” because the Government is offering no money to help set them up.

The new centres are central to the National Government’s restructuring of primary healthcare.

What a load of ill-researched tosh. Near the end of the article we have this statement:

General practices are mainly private businesses and the Government has no power to force them to create new types of clinics. It has put up $6 million this financial year, but only to manage the change, not to finance new or altered facilities.

So, it turns out that the government is offering money to set up integrated health centers – to the tune of six million dollars to finance all the set up fees. That is more than generous. There is, of course, no money to actually put the facilities together, but this is hardly surprising. After all, why would the government want to stump up money to help GPs build private facilities? And, conversely, why would GPs want the government essentially to buy into their practices?

I feel a little sorry for Prof. Cindy Farquhar who has obviously been asked leading questions:

The network’s spokeswoman, Professor Cindy Farquhar, said, when asked if GPs were concerned by the absence of Government funding for integrated family health centres, “Yes, that was a bit of a challenge. In this proposal there is no new money.”

Prof. Farquhar knows, of course, that integrated health centers that take on hospital work will be paid by the DHBs for this work, so in that sense, there is “new money” – it is just not extra money from the government’s point of view as they are already paying for these services. In general, it will be considerably cheaper to get the integrated health centers to do things like minor surgery and some outpatient work. Minor surgery, especially, clogs expensive theatres and can be easily done in less elaborate settings. As a business proposition, the integrated health center could be very financially viable.

Auckland already has a number of facilities which are essentially integrated health centres in all but name. That is actually part of the problem. These centers are not keen to see lots of similar centers mushroom around them (and that is not Ryall’s intention anyway). In addition there are a considerable number of A&M facilities which are not very far away from becoming IHCs, but the question is which one should make the change?

It is this lack of certainty and the fragmented nature of Auckland PHOs that have made the Auckland proposal for Integrated Health Care Networks a bit of a mess. It is therefore no real surprise that the idea has been abandoned for now. Ryall is being phlegmatic about this. He knows that the bigger units will gradually take on more low-level hospital work, as long as they are paid for it. Eventually the Integrated Health Care Networks will tend to form spontaneously, aided by the likely amalgamation of Auckland PHOs along the way.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

(though quite why one would want to remove the fur from a feline escapes me)

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