News in brief: Gender bias persists at Australian stroke meetings; Three treatments effective for infantile spasms; Mandatory vaccination call for all hospital staff

19 Jul 2021

Gender bias persists at Australian stroke meetings

Australia is doing better than other countries in terms of gender equity at stroke conferences, but women still routinely take second place to men in leadership roles and as keynote speakers, a new study suggests.

A review of gender balance among participants at Stroke Society of Australasia meetings between 2014 and 2019 showed that women accounted for 66% of all speaker roles overall, but only 41% of keynote speakers. Similarly, while women were well represented as committee members, they were less likely than males to be elected president.

A key factor associated with female representation was increasing the number of women in program committees, said the authors of the analysis published  in Cerebrovascular Diseases.

Three treatments effective for infantile spasms

A real-world head-to-head comparison of treatments for infantile spams has found that treatment with anything other than the three recommended therapies of ACTH, oral steroids or vigabatrin resulted in a poor response. Data from the US National Infantile Spasms Consortium showed that freedom from treatment failure rates were 46% for ACTH, 44% for oral steroids and 37% for vigabatrin, while non-standard therapy had a success rate of only 8%.

Vigabatrin was particularly effective for treatment of infants with tuberous sclerosis complex but there was a lower response in those without when compared to hormonal therapy. There was also a suggestion that ACTH performed better than oral steroids or vigabatrin when resolution of hypsarrhythmia was included as an outcome.

The results are published in Neurology.

Mandatory vaccination needed for all hospital staff

The Morrison government is being urged to make vaccinations compulsory for all hospital staff across Australia and have a roll out plan to provide vaccine every hospital worker.

The peak body representing Catholic not-for-profit hospitals, Catholic Health Australia (CHA), says the Federal government already has a mandatory vaccination scheme for aged care and should put in place a similar scheme for all hospital staff across Australia, public and private.

CHA says its hospitals are already redeploying unvaccinated staff to clinical areas where there is a lower risk of contact with COVID patients and vaccinating staff as and when Commonwealth supplies become available.

“Every year health care staff are required to get vaccinated against the flu and yet there’s no such directive for COVID,” said CHA’s Health Policy Director James Kemp.

National Cabinet should bring in a uniform rule for mandatory COVID vaccination for hospital staff – regardless of whether they work in ED, ICU or any other clinical or support position, he added.

“The high transmissibility of the Delta variant of COVID is putting workers and the people they care for at greater risk as well as putting extra strain on staff,” he said

Mr Kemp said: “Every worker should have a date in their diary to get vaccinated. Every dose that comes into the country should have a hospital worker’s name next to it.”

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