Adelaide Doctor takes on Australian Insurance Giant!!

A doctor from Adelaide, Australia has written an open mail to Medibank Private challenging their new rules for health insurance.

He has laid bare, what most doctors and health professionals have been thinking about. Well done Peter.

“Dear Medibank Private,
I, like many other health professionals, have just cancelled my insurance policy that my wife (Katrina Devonish) and I have maintained with you since 2002.
The cynical attempt by your company to save money by refusing to fund your members’ care for so-called “avoidable complications” is an abuse of trust towards those who believe your actions are in their best interest.
I received your letter regarding the breakdown of negotiations with the Calvary Hospital Network and the obtuse justification for why your clients will potentially be even more out of pocket when receiving private health care.
Whether this is the first step towards “USA style” managed care or just actuarial nonsense, I do not wish to put my family in the situation where we need to self fund for readmission (or joust for admission to a public hospital) should we suffer an unavoidable complication post-surgery. (The definition of “avoidable complication” we will need to agree to disagree at this juncture.)
I shall be spreading the message fair and wide and hopefully the sound of the thundering stampede of the mass exodus of your former members moving onto more ethical health funds may make you reconsider this ludicrous policy direction.
Yours sincerely,
Peter Devonish
Consultant Anaesthetist
Public and Private Health Sectors in South Australia”
The FaceBook post

Family and Cancer

The majority of patients come with family members for clinic and chemotherapy appointments.

I was not someone who would try and spend too much time figuring out the patient’s family logistics and dynamics. This has changed over the past few years and I am learning that the family is one of the main reasons why patients keep fighting cancer positively.

When a patient comes to clinic alone… worth probing more about why he/she has come alone today. Could just be coincidence… but worth asking.

The first appointment in a cancer unit can be very daunting for patients having someone along is a huge emotional support. Also there is so much of information which is discussion, including breaking news about cancer, scan and biopsy results, treatment options available. It is really important to have another set of ears to take in all this. This can then be discussed at length at home with other family members or friends.

One of the saddest things is when the patient has never told the rest of the family about the cancer diagnosis or details till it is too late. Some family members get really angry with the doctors and nurses, about the lack of information given to them. The thing to remember is that the patient decides who gets told or not (as long as they have full mental capacity).

Some OPD appointments can be a battleground between family members and other times it is so comforting to watch family and friends take control and soothe the distraught patient.

Everyday is different. Learn something new. Everyday.

Thank you for making me a better person.

CanTEEN: Cancer affecting Teens (12 – 24)

CanTeen is a great organization (CanTeen) who supports teenagers suffering with cancer or if they are affected with cancer (parents, family, friends). CanTeen supports kids from as young as 12 years to 24 years. I have occasionally had help for kids who are even younger than 12.

Great resource for patients, families and their health care providers. Thank you for everything you do.

Death of a young patient

A young patient was referred to me with a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer. The surgeon phoned me and asked if I could see her urgently…. I did. She was in her late 30’s and had extensive cancer in her liver. There was hardly any normal liver seen on her scans.

During the consultation, I explained that she had a poor prognosis and we need to start chemotherapy soon. She was one of the most positive patients I had ever met. She had young children and they were her main motivation to get healthier and stronger.

She was started on chemotherapy with FOLFOX and Avastin… had one of the most spectacular responses you can imagine (her liver disease had a complete response). Two years later, she had relapse of disease and she was started on Cetuximab. On disease progression, Irinotecan was added… we reintroduced FOLFOX, a clinical trial, some more Capecitabine.

Today, after 4 and a half years of battle…. she is taking her last breaths. I met her, her children and her family. They thanked me immensely for everything I had done.

One of the saddest things is the inability to do enough. More. Something more.

In my mind, I still have the image of the lady who was positive as ever. Willing to fight any cancer or complication. The lady who was working and enjoying life, while still on chemotherapy.

Each time, I come across this situation…. I learn to appreciate life and everything that we have. And do not realize. Take things for granted.

Life goes on. Learn to love what we have and the people around us.

New PD-1 targeted drugs for melanoma

Patients in Australia presently have a option of getting Nivolumab or Pembrolizumab for advanced melanoma. Neither of the medications are presently funded on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (Pembro will be from 1st Sep 2015), but are available via Access programmes from the companies. Great drugs. Great benefits. Significantly lowered toxicity profile.

Worth having a discussion with your Oncology doctor.

The Irresponsible Killing Cancer Talk

Everytime something is published in the newspaper or is mentioned on TV/radio, it is talked about being the cure of cancer. The study might have been done in rats or in a petri dish, but is portrayed as if that is going to solve all the problems of cancer. The next day, half the consult time is wasted talking down all the newspaper cuttings and reports!! 🙂

The Irresponsible Killing Cancer Talk

Do you need to poo daily?

One of major patient complaints is about their bowel habits. Too hard, too loose, too difficult, too much effort. This gets to a point where some people get obsessed with their bowel patterns. This is a major problem worldwide due to change in diet patterns and the medications. A fair number of cancer patients are on strong pain killers including opioids, which further contribute to constipation.

Do you need to poo daily?