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Health News

Suicide prevention approach to be updated in light of COVID-19 and bushfire impacts

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Suicide prevention approach to be updated in light of COVID-19 and bushfire impacts

The Mental Health Commission of NSW will lead an update of the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 in the wake of a series of destructive natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic during the past two years.

Australian Bureau of Statistics annual figures released today show that 876 people died due to suicide in NSW during 2020, at a rate of 10.5 suicides per 100,000 people. While this is a decrease from 937 suicide deaths at a rate of 11.4 per 100,000 in 2019, it is far too high and underscores the continued need for prevention to be a top priority.

NSW provides its own monthly reporting of suicides across the state through the Suicide Monitoring and Reporting System which provides estimates on suspected and confirmed numbers, using data collected from NSW Police and the State Coroner. This provides regular and timely information and records that in 2020 there were 896 people reported as suspected suicide deaths in NSW. This number varies slightly from the ABS report, which counts the number of people whose suicides have been confirmed or are being finalised through the coronial process. Taken together, they confirm that continued effort and focus is needed in the ongoing priority to reduce suicide in the community.

NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said while it is too early to gauge the impact of the COVID pandemic or natural disasters based on the 2020 data released, there are a number of emerging trends creating concern.

“While we do not yet have clear data on the impact of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates, we are seeing increased demand for suicide prevention support services, increased mental health presentations in emergency departments, and greater use of mental health services booked through Medicare.

“Families, friends and communities across NSW are devastated by the impact of suicide, with an estimated 17 lives lost each week. These are not just statistics, each number is a person with their own story leaving bereaved loved ones behind. Tragically, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15–44 years,” Ms Lourey said.

“In updating the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW the lived experience of people who have lived with suicidal thoughts or through a suicidal crisis, those bereaved by suicide and people caring for those who live with suicidal thoughts will be critical to our review. Together with other stakeholders and experts, we will be able to look behind the data to understand what’s really happening in our communities, what people’s own experience sheds light on and what types of interventions and support are most effective.”

The Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 launched in 2018 was followed by the Premier’s Priority Towards Zero Suicides Initiative which aims to reduce the suicide rate by 20 per cent from 2018 to 2023. This Initiative has provided $87 million to leading practice crisis care and support, building local community resilience and improving systems and practices to reduce the suicide rate in NSW. Additional funding has been provided in response to increased demand, including $8 million for programs in regional NSW.

The updated Framework will provide a set of key directions for a five year, whole of Government strategy to reduce the rate of suicide, draw upon best evidence and contemporary service approaches, build upon the work achieved under the Towards Zero Suicides initiative, and embed community responses and the voice of lived experience of suicide, suicidality, bereavement and caring.

Ms Lourey said consultation will begin shortly with people with lived experience, the community, the NSW Ministry of Health, lead Government agencies, the community managed sector and expert organisations.

Today’s ABS figures show suicide remains the leading cause of death among people aged 15-24, 25-34 and 35-44 years in NSW. The suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at 21.6 is twice that of non-indigenous people which is 9.8. The suicide rate in rural and regional NSW is 15.4, which is twice that of Greater Sydney at 8.1. Involving these communities in the update of the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention will also be essential.

NOTE: The ABS counts suicides that have been confirmed or are being finalised through the coronial process while the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System provides estimates on suspected and confirmed suicides in NSW, using data collected from NSW Police and the State Coroner. See the latest NSW Suicide Monitoring System data at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/resources/Publications/sums-report-jun-2021.pdf

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Flu numbers explode, over 65s most at risk

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Flu numbers explode, over 65s most at risk

 

By Tim Howard

An explosion in flu cases across the state has prompted North Coast health authorities to urge people over 65 to book in for their free flu jabs as the virus continues to surge across the state.

Director of North Coast Population and Public Health Dr Valerie Delpech said a recent surveillance report revealed there had been a 25% jump in flu diagnoses in a week.

“Flu is rapidly increasing across the state,” Dr Delpech said. “In the past week alone presentations to NSW emergency departments increased by almost 22% for people with influenza-like illness.

“We are expecting the flu season will be around for several weeks to come, so now is the time to book in for your free flu vaccine to get the vital protection you need.”

Dr Delpech said the more elderly, who were in greater need of the protection vaccination offered, were lagging behind in vaccination rates.

“At present, just half of people 65 and over (52.4 per cent) in NSW have received their flu vaccine,” she said.

The doctor said with influenza, COVID-19 and RSV all circulating in the community, health services reminded the community to avoid visiting high-risk settings including hospitals and aged care facilities if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness.

“Vaccination is the best protection against infection and severe disease,” Dr Delpech said. “Everyone, but particularly those at increased risk of severe disease, is urged to get vaccinated now. By getting vaccinated you also help protect those around you.”

She said the influenza vaccine was free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza from GPs for any age group, as well as through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Flu North Coast

South Grafton pharmacist Michael Troy was part of a successful campaign for a law change to allow pharmacists to vaccinate against the flu. He urges people to get regular flu shots ahead of every flu season.

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza who are eligible for free vaccination include:

  • people aged 65 and over
  • children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease.

Dr Delpech said there were some simple steps people could take to protect themselves and loved ones from respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including hand washing.

 

For more health news, click here.

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Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

 

Should You Consider Self-Insurance? Plus Other Tips to Save!

Consumer group CHOICE has found that many Australians faced significant increases in their health insurance premiums in April, with some premiums rising as much as 17%—far higher than the annual average industry-wide price increase of 3.03%.

“CHOICE reviewed the prices of over 24,000 policies with hospital cover and found Gold policies had the highest premium increases, with average increases above 10% for HBF, HCF, HIF, and Australian Unity policies. One Gold policy in Western Australia even saw a 17% hike,” said CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird.

“With these sky-high increases, it’s worth taking the time to review your health insurance to ensure you’re only paying for what you need, and that you’re getting it at the best possible price,” Bird added.

CHOICE’s Top Tips for Saving on Your Health Insurance

  1. Drop Gold Hospital Insurance

“Gold hospital cover has become too expensive. If you have a specific condition usually covered by Gold policies and want to use the private hospital system, look for a Silver Plus policy or consider self-insurance.”

Self-insurance is an alternative to private health insurance. Instead of paying an insurer, you save money yourself to cover private health costs as they arise. If you don’t need any health treatment, your savings will grow.

“We have found that in some cases, opting to self-fund your health care can be the better-value option,” Bird explained.

For example, cataract surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, is often only covered by the most expensive Gold policies. CHOICE’s analysis showed that the annual cost of top-cover health insurance could exceed the out-of-pocket cost for a private cataract procedure.

“This option may only be suitable for people who have few health issues and do not anticipate any unexpected health events. And of course, you need to ensure you have the money set aside in case you require a surgical procedure or treatment in the private system,” Bird advised.

  1. Compare Policies to Find a Good Deal

“We always recommend comparing policies to find the best value policy to suit your needs. The same cover with a different insurer may save you hundreds of dollars a year. Look beyond the well-known big funds and consider smaller funds; switching to a smaller fund often provides a cheaper deal,” said Bird.

“If you’re unsure where to start, CHOICE has an independent health insurance comparison tool that allows you to compare thousands of policies from over 40 insurers,” Bird suggested.

  1. Do You Need Extras Insurance?

“The value of extras insurance really depends on the individual. It can be worth purchasing, but only if you use it enough that it pays out more than the premiums that are coming out of your pocket,” Bird noted.

“If you need extras insurance, shop around and buy your extras from a different provider than your standard hospital cover if you find a better deal,” Bird recommended.

Compare health insurance policies here: CHOICE Health Insurance Comparison Tool

 

For more health news, click here.

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NSW Seniors Urged to Book Free Flu Vaccine Amid Rising Respiratory Illnesses

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

NSW Seniors Urged to Book Free Flu Vaccine Amid Rising Respiratory Illnesses

 

People aged 65 and over are being strongly urged to book their free influenza vaccine as respiratory illnesses continue to rise across NSW.

The latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report, released today, indicates a rapid increase in influenza activity in NSW, with COVID-19 transmission also reaching high levels.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant reported a 27% increase in influenza notifications and a 23% increase in COVID-19 notifications for the week ending 25 May compared to the previous week.

“While everyone aged six months and over is urged to get their influenza vaccine as soon as possible, it is particularly important for those at higher risk of severe illness from the virus,” Dr. Chant said.

“Influenza immunisation rates aren’t where they need to be. Less than half of people aged 65 and over in NSW have received their influenza vaccine this year. We really need to see that number go up, especially as people in this age group are among those most at risk of severe illness.

“We expect the number of influenza cases to quickly increase in the weeks ahead, so now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.”

The influenza vaccine is free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza. It is available through GPs for any age group and through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) Infectious Diseases Paediatrician Dr. Phil Britton noted that influenza notifications are increasing across all age groups, particularly among young children aged three to four years.

“In recent weeks, we have seen influenza cases rising among young children. The best thing parents can do to keep their kids well this winter, and reduce the risk of them being hospitalised due to influenza, is to ensure their children receive a flu vaccine,” Dr. Britton said.

Free Flu Vaccination Eligibility:

  • People aged 65 and over
  • Children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease

Steps to Protect Yourself and Others from Respiratory Viruses:

  • Stay up to date with recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Gather outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including regular hand washing

For more information and to book your vaccination, visit your local GP or pharmacy.

 

For more seniors news, click here.

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