News in brief: Neurologist numbers increase revealed by AHPRA; New approval for Pompe disease; Specialty training colleges’ ‘dirty secret’

1 Dec 2021

Neurologist numbers increase revealed by AHPRA

The neurology workforce has grown by an additional 191 physicians over the last five years, with 763 practitioners now registered in the specialist physician category of neurology field of practice, according to the latest statistics on medical registration released by AHPRA.

The figures show that numbers of neurologists have increased from 572 registered in 2016. As well as the adult medicine neurologists there are also 54 specialists in paediatric neurology field of practice.

The locations of practice of neurologists include 12 in the ACT, 266 in NSW, two in the Northern Territory, 108 in Queensland, 47 in South Australia, 13 in Tasmania, 243 in Victoria, and 54 in WA.

Overall, there are 130,476 registered medical practitioners in total in Australia, and 11,114 practitioners registered as specialists.

New approval for Pompe disease

Avalglucosidase alfa (Nexviazyme) has been registered in Australia as long-term enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of patients one year and older with Pompe disease.

Neurologist Associate Professor Robert Henderson, from the Wesley and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospitals, said more treatment options for Pompe disease were needed.

“Until now, there has only been one available treatment for Pompe disease and people often experience a decline in muscle function over time. Nexviazyme offers meaningful improvements in respiratory function and walking distance compared to the existing treatment and it appears to be a new standard of care for Pompe disease,” he said.

Nexviazyme demonstrated clinically meaningful improvements over alglucosidase alfa in outcome measures such as respiratory function (FVC) and walking distance (6MWT) in people with late-onset Pompe disease.

A company statement said it has also shown improvements in key disease burden measures in infantile-onset Pompe disease patients.

Specialty training colleges’ ‘dirty secret’

Training colleges, consultants, and hospital executives have been blamed for enabling ongoing abuse and overwork of registrars, in an article about speciality training written by an anonymous junior doctor deploring what they describe as medicine’s ‘dirty secret’.

Published in mainstream newspapers this week, the article entitled ‘Distressed doctors don’t bend, so they break’ describes a training regime that encourages mental distress and suicide among registrars who are given a heavy workload and responsibilities but no support from senior doctors or management.

“They are the first to arrive at the hospital and the last to leave. You are told not to make waves, to keep your head down, to get through it. You are often working unsupervised with vast responsibilities and unsupportive distant supervisors. The less you complain, the more you’re willing to endure, the more attractive and hireable you become. Troublemakers do not get hired,” it says.

The article says the current approach by training colleges is flawed because “the focus has been on coping with abuse rather than ending abuse.”

“The medical fraternity needs to host a meaningful discussion about how to fix our training system to provide more support for doctors and improve their wellbeing. Workload is an issue but the crux of the problem is the lack of support from those in authority,” it concludes.

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