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The introduction of nurse operated walk-in clinics for public hospitals will help formalise the new role of nurses according to Head of Nursing at Melbourne University, Professor Sanchia Aranda.

“There is this classic perception that nurses are educated to know just enough to help doctors do their job. Yet these days the role of a nurse is blurred,” she says.

“These days there are nurses who have Masters and PhD degrees, these people have sophisticated skills and the ability to support the management of patients.”

Professor Aranda says the federally funded walk-in clinics – for patients seeking fast treatment of minor injuries and ailments - will not only free doctors up to focus on more complex cases, but also help formalise tasks that nurses are already doing within the health system.

“Take something like a broken arm, there are already triage nurses who can read x-rays, put on casts and monitor patients as they deal with the injury without the patient needing to see a doctor,” she says.

Professor Aranda says despite the increased number of skills needed by nurses, society’s perception of the profession is not changing very rapidly. Yet she says there are pockets of hope that this perception will change, like the Masters course of Nursing that the University introduced last year. Professor Aranda says that if we can bring brighter people into the profession then perceptions will begin to change, and then nurses will be seen as performing roles that are able to really help people manage their illnesses.

North Korea’s underground nuclear tests have been condemned by world leaders, yet Associate Professor Tilman Ruff says the global community should not simply react by reprimanding the regime but ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

“There are around 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world and if less than half of one per cent of the world’s nuclear arsenal was targeted on cities it could result in a global climatic catastrophe that would imperil human civilisation,” he says.

“Every day we live with this terrible risk that the world could end.”

Professor Ruff says North Korea’s underground nuclear testing and violation of Resolution 1718 brings into force the need for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. He says nations who claim nuclear weapons are essential to their own security are often the same ones who are claiming these weapons are a threat when possessed by anyone else.

“This kind of nuclear apartheid is unsustainable and the only approach that really has legs is one that has a consistent standard - zero nuclear weapons for all countries,” he says.

Professor Ruff says the sooner we see serious progress toward the goal of zero nuclear weapons the better and says this goal is a lot more achievable since the Obama administration got into power.

“We have agreed on global treaties to abolish cluster munitions, land mines, chemical and biological weapons in the past, so there is plenty of precedent for abolishing whole classes of weapons by a comprehensive treaty. Many would argue that the same approach should be applied to nuclear weapons.”

A $115m HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and the University of Melbourne’s new state-of-the-art Audiology, Hearing and Speech Sciences facility will be co-launched by Senator Kim Carr today at 4.30pm at 550 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Hearing loss affects one in six Australians, with the real economic cost estimated to be $11.7 billion per annum – with an aging population and increasing noise in our everyday lives, prevalence and costs are projected to rise.

Dr Jodie McVernon says it was inevitable that swine flu would eventually hit our shores following confirmation this morning of three cases in Melbourne. Yet she assures Melbourne residents that these cases are not an indication of “wider community risk”.

Dr McVernon says surveillance measures put in place by the Department of Human Services upon the outbreak of swine flu aided containment of the virus to three boys from one family.

“The first child travelled while healthy and presented with symptoms late which is why he went to school for one day. Despite this there is no evidence at the moment that this family has spread the virus to anyone outside their family,” she says.

Dr McVernon says that while some ministers have advised people to prepare their pandemic pantries in readiness for a local swine flu outbreak, at this stage “we have a local event with three cases in one family, and no indication of wider community risk”.

“Australia is also very fortunate to have a dedicated vaccine manufacturer which has been building up its production capacity to develop a strain specific vaccine which is in process now and will take several months”.


A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite is a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors also dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth.

Using sophisticated medical imaging techniques, an international team led by Dr Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne have revealed that the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) has the most complex venom glands yet described for any reptile, and that its close extinct relative Megalania was the largest venomous animal to have lived.

A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite is a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors also dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth

A group of global health experts have united to pressure the World Health Organisation into including a process of mass vaccination into its management strategy for cholera outbreaks in Africa as the deadly disease spreads.

The announcement of a $57 billion deficit by the Federal Government on Tuesday did not surprise Associate Professor Mark Crosby; but the decisions to delay policies such as maternity leave and a pension increase have.

“It seems strange that the Government has decided to delay certain policies because if it’s a good idea why not start now?” he says.

“The effect of delaying these policy delays will have a minimal effect on revenue and taxes, as while some changes will cost the government, some are revenue raising.”

Associate Professor Crosby also said claims from the Liberals that they had built up a large surplus from which Labor are now spending is not accurate.

“While some of the reforms introduced by the Liberals – such as the GST – were good from an economist’s perspective, from 2002 onwards they simply got lucky. There was a lot of money coming in and they didn’t really use it as well as they could have,” he says.

“The challenge for the Labour party now is that they are in office during much more difficult times and will be forced to make difficult decisions.”

 Despite this, Professor Crosby says Australia is starting from a very strong position – even with such a large deficit - when compared to most global economies.

Associate Professor Mark Crosby is a lecturer in Economics at the Melbourne Business School.

With the Federal Government set to resume debate today on proposed changes to taxes on alcopops, Professor Rob Moodie, Chair of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, discusses the benefits of such a tax.

Professor Moodie says there is independent evidence that the alcopop tax does work in reducing consumption, with independent studies revealing 165 million fewer spirit-based drinks were drunk by Australians when the tax was enforced between May 2008 and January 2009.

Professor Moodie says making the tax permanent is an important step in creating a much safer drinking culture in Australia, and ultimately saving lives as part of a concerted effort to reduce teenage binge drinking.

The University of Melbourne has welcomed the announcement today of major Commonwealth and State funding to create a world leading comprehensive cancer centre in Melbourne.

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