Friday, January 25, 2008

Woman's death in government hospital was preventable

A MELBOURNE woman who died after giving birth could have survived if her medical treatment had been more timely and organised, a coroner found today. Piyanat Siriwan, 33, died at 2.15pm on April 1, 2004, at the Monash Medical Centre from massive blood loss after giving birth to a healthy baby girl at 8am that morning at the South Eastern Private Hospital in Melbourne's outer east.

Delivering her finding today into the death, Coroner Paresa Spanos said with more competent medical management, including a more timely transfer from the South Eastern Private Hospital, Mrs Siriwan "had a reasonable chance of surviving''. "In that sense I find her death was preventable,'' Ms Spanos said. Saying Mrs Siriwan's transfer between the hospitals was "a study in chaos'', Ms Spanos was critical of Mrs Siriwan's obstetrician Maurice Lichter and anaesthetist Emlyn Williams in their handling of her case on the day of her death, and ordered them to front the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria (MPBV). She recommended the MPBV take whatever "action it deems appropriate against the two doctors''.

Ms Spanos also made an adverse comment about South Eastern Private Hospital not having made Dr Lichter or Dr Williams aware there was an emergency supply of blood available which would have been used to help Mrs Siriwan. She recommended the hospital ensure all doctors were aware of such supplies being available in future cases.

However, Ms Spanos said she did not have any adverse comment to make in relation to the Metropolitan Ambulance Service or the nurses attending Mrs Siriwan on the day, adding that their concern and frustration had been evident. A lawyer for Mrs Siriwan's husband, Harrinat Siriwan, said outside the court that he was too upset on hearing his wife's death was preventable to speak publicly.


An employer's right to fire upheld

It's an important precedent for other, smaller, employers. The more an employer's right to fire is restricted, the less an employer will be inclined to take on new empoyees -- as we see in France, with its high unemployment rate

A Telstra worker, sacked for taking part in a sex romp at a Sydney hotel after a work Christmas party, has lost the right to receive compensation and get her job back. Carlie Streeter was sacked from her job at a Miranda Telstra store in February last year after an investigation into a night of alcohol-fuelled sex and partying with colleagues. Telstra accused Ms Streeter of having sex with a male employee in the bath tub of a hotel room at Cronulla's Rydges Hotel. It was alleged another male employee was in the bath tub at the time when the trio was interrupted by a female employee. The two former male colleagues - Steve Hatzistergos and Aakash Sharma - also lost their jobs over the scandal, along with another unnamed employee.

Bosses were alerted to the incident after another female employee made complaints about Ms Streeter's behaviour on the night to a store manager. Ms Streeter subsequently appealed against her dismissal and won her case. But yesterday, Telstra won its own appeal against the ruling made in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), which had ordered the telco giant to reinstate Ms Streeter and pay her compensation for lost earnings. The successful appeal means Telstra has no obligation to give Ms Streeter her job back or pay her compensation.

The decision, handed down by a full bench of the AIRC, ruled Ms Streeter's termination was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. A Telstra spokeswoman last night said that Telstra welcomed the decision. "We are pleased the Australian Industrial Relations Commission have upheld our appeal," she said.

The sex-romp scandal ignited debate about the right of employers to sack workers for bad behaviour while off the job. In September last year a worker sacked by Allianz Australia Services, following a drunken after-hours trivia night, won the right to a full bench rehearing of his claim in the AIRC. The AIRC had previously thrown out his unfair dismissal case, which followed his sacking for threatening a manager with physical and sexual assault.

Ms Streeter has kept a low profile since her sexual exploits were revealed by The Daily Telegraph in August. Her lawyer Kelly Durant yesterday said his client was upset by the commission's ruling and was keen to discuss whether she could launch a further appeal in the Federal Court. "Ms Streeter is unhappy about the decision and feels like justice hasn't been served. This has been a long fight," he said. "She understands that these are matters of law. But she's quite aggrieved by the decision."


Australian economists put the heat on the Stern report

A Productivity Commission paper has criticised the influential Stern review on global warming for making value-laden assumptions that inflated estimates of the economic costs of warming. The internal staff working paper, released as Australia prepares its own version of the Stern review, called the original British review's conclusions "as much an exercise in advocacy as it is an economic analysis of climate change".

It acknowledged Nicholas Stern's contribution to the field, but said it was impossible to say whether some assumptions were "definitively right or wrong". The former World Bank chief economist's review had "erred" in not making key value judgments explicit, or testing different parameters in his modelling, the paper said.

The commission paper, originally prepared for internal use in response to the Stern review's October 2006 release, was published yesterday. It was given to the Labor-initiated Garnaut review, which is modelled on the Stern review, over the Christmas break.

When then Opposition leader Kevin Rudd announced Labor's review last year, headed by Australian National University economist Ross Garnaut, he said Australia needed its own version of the Stern review. "The Stern report to the British Government sent a clear warning that, left unchecked, climate change will have catastrophic economic consequences," Mr Rudd said. Sir Nicholas found the cost of global warming, estimated at between 5 and 20 per cent of global GDP a year, far exceeded the annual cost of mitigation measures, estimated at 1 per cent of global GDP. But his conclusions have been dogged by controversy since their release, the harshest critics calling them biased and alarmist.

The commission paper said some criticisms of the report were justified. The use of high emissions scenarios, pessimistic assumptions on damage costs, and an unconventional method of calculating current and future costs and benefits all tended to "escalate the present value of future costs", it noted.

Sir Nicholas last year appealed to Australia to cut emissions by 30per cent by 2020 -- a call then prime minister John Howard rejected on the basis it would cause thousands of job losses in the coal industry.

An Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report earlier said the nation's GDP would fall by about 2.5 per cent by 2050 if emissions were cut by 40 per cent. Labor has promised to cut emissions by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by that date. The Garnaut review, due to report in draft form in June, is likely to look at the economic impact of shorter-term targets. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong would not comment on the conclusions of the Productivity Commission document, saying only that she welcomed any paper that contributed to Australia's understanding of climate change impacts. "We will draw on a range of analysis in designing the Government's response to climate change -- including modelling from Professor Garnaut and the Treasury," she said.


Afghanistan troop numbers tipped to stay

THE military may change the mix of its forces in Afghanistan but is unlikely to increase troop numbers, Chief of Defence Force Angus Houston says. Air Chief Marshal Houston yesterday said the Rudd Government had asked for an analysis of the Australian presence in Afghanistan. "I will take some proposals to the Government in the near future (on) where we might make some adjustments to the mix," Air Chief Marshal Houston said. "In terms of the mix, I don't think we'll see any increase in force level. "What we will do is have a look at what we've got on the ground and make recommendations to government."

There are currently 1038 Australian troops in southern Afghanistan, making Australia the 10th-largest provider of personnel to the troubled nation and largest non-NATO contributor. "I think we're carrying our share of the burden," Air Chief Marshal Houston said. "We're in a very demanding and challenging province. "The Government will obviously have a close look at that over time and if they decide to make adjustments, well that's a matter for them."

On the Federal Government's air combat review, the defence chief argued against using the air force's ageing F-111s as an interim measure instead of Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets ordered by the former Howard government. Defence last year signed a contract to buy 24 of the Super Hornets at a cost of $6 billion as part of a transition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the next decade. ast month Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced a review of the entire air combat spending program. The force has a 2010 target to withdraw its F-111s from service.

"You're running down a capability and then suddenly you've got to turn it around again. That's difficult," Air Chief Marshal Houston said. "What you're faced with is a fairly expensive and extensive upgrade. That's the reality." He said the Super Hornet was a good choice for an interim, multi-use role and readily available from the US.


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