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Agency calls for HIV, TB aid for Burma

Staff from the global aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will be visiting Australia this month to petition the federal government to provide additional support for HIV and TB programs in Burma. In a report released late last month, MSF said 85,000 people in the Southeast Asian country were in urgent need of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) but were unable to access it. Of an estimated 9300 people newly infected with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) each year, so far just over 300 have received treatment. The report, Lives in the Balance said the cancellation of a round of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria meant there would be no funding to expand treatment for those diseases until 2014. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people living with HIV die every year in Myanmar because of lack of access to ART. Meantime, TB prevalence in the country is more than three times the global average and Myanmar is among the 27 countries with the highest MDR-TB rates in the world. MDR-TB has the same airborne transmission as non-resistant TB, but it is more complex and lengthy to treat. As with non-resistant TB, healthy people can easily be infected with MDR-TB. Burma, the least developed country in Southeast Asia, is one of the lowest recipients of official development aid in the world, MSF said in a statement. “With political reform being reciprocated by greater engagement from the international community, there is a real opportunity to put access to treatment for people living with HIV and TB at the top of donor priority lists,” the organisation said.


Caps on overtime working, US study shows

A US study has found that caps on nurses’ mandatory overtime hours are having the intended effect – reducing overtime hours for newly registered nurses. Past research has demonstrated that fatigue caused by long hours without sufficient rest between shifts can lead to mistakes that imperil both patients and nurses, the academics said in a statement announcing their findings. Carol Brewer, professor at the School of Nursing at the University at Buffalo, said the purpose of capping mandatory overtime was to make hospitals safer for patients and nurses. “Nurses routinely work long shifts, often as long as 12 hours straight. These laws were intended to prevent hospitals from piling mandatory overtime on top of such shifts, a practice that research shows can increase the likelihood of mistakes. The laws seem to be accomplishing their objective,” she said. Since 2010, 16 states in the US have implemented rules restricting mandatory overtime hours. The study, which was part of ongoing research into newly licensed registered nurses (NLRN), found that in the states governing mandatory overtime, NLRNs were 59 per cent less likely to work mandatory overtime than their colleagues in unregulated states. (The researchers pointed out that not all states with overtime rules prohibit mandatory overtime; some simply limited total work hours.) Overall, 11.6 percent of nurses said they worked mandatory overtime in a typical work week, averaging 6.1 hours of mandatory overtime. In addition, in the states regulating overtime, NLRNs worked an average of 50 fewer minutes per week than their colleagues in states without overtime regulations.


Spanish nurses protest funding cuts

Along with firemen and other public sector workers, Spanish nurses last month protested in Madrid against spending cuts that they say will threaten crucial services in the region.
Several thousand protesters filled an avenue in the centre of the city, sounding horns and drums, waving red, green and blue flags. They were protesting the conservative regional government's decision to extend their working hours and cut sickness benefits for public sector workers, some of whom earn little more than 1000 euro ($A1,228.80) a month. They also warned that the spending cuts - part of nationwide efforts under a new conservative Spanish government to strengthen the country's public finances - were undermining social care and emergency services. "The hospitals are running at half capacity because there are not enough staff," said Dolores Escrivano, a nursing auxiliary. “There are hospital beds lying empty because there are no staff," she said, referring to the regional administration. The UGT, one of the major unions that organised the protest, says thousands of jobs are under threat across the public sector in Madrid. Protesters complained that retiring workers are not being replaced and replacements are not being hired to cover for regular workers when they are on holiday, meaning lapses in social services, schools and hospitals.


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