Sunday, December 21, 2008

Claims of public hospital cover-up after fall from surgery table

The NSW Health Minister has ordered an investigation into claims of a cover-up at a Sydney hospital, where a woman had part of her intestine removed without her knowledge. Rachel Hale arrived at Campbelltown Hospital on December 12 expecting routine surgery to have her appendix removed. When she woke up, she was told part of her bowel had also been removed, because "a lump" was detected. But hospital insiders allege Mrs Hale's bowel was ruptured because she fell from the operating table while under general anaesthetic just prior to the operation. They allege the fall also caused a minor head injury. The insiders claim there were no staff in the operating theatre when she fell. They allege Mrs Hale was told "a pack of lies" by hospital officials to conceal the truth.

It is alleged that once she was anaesthetised, a doctor and nurse left her unattended to work on another patient elsewhere in the hospital. When staff re-entered the room, it is alleged they found Mrs Hale hanging head first because her feet had been strapped to the table. When she hit the floor, a trocar - a hollow sharp cylinder used to introduce cannulas into blood vessels - that was inserted in her side had sliced through her bowel. A source said: "It could so easily have killed her. "They had to open her belly up, remove the section of perforated bowel then stitch her back up and rush her to intensive care." Mrs Hale spent five days in hospital.

The Sun-Herald was told an internal critical incident report was compiled hours after the surgery, which stated Mrs Hale's injuries were sustained because she was left "unattended." On December 19, the same day The Sun-Herald began making inquiries, NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca was briefed that no such report existed. The hospital then told the minister, that same day, the report had just been compiled - a week after the incident.

Mrs Hale said she was seeking legal advice. "This is absolutely not what they told me," she said. "I was there because my appendix needed removing immediately. When I woke up, they said there had been 'complications'. They said part of my bowel had been removed because they discovered a small lump. They added it had been sent to a pathologist and it came back fine. I had a bump on my head. They said I hit that on a control panel." Mrs Hale said she wanted the truth. "I need to know what the lasting implications are and how this is likely to affect the rest of my life."

Hospital insiders said they chose to speak out because Campbelltown Hospital was providing the same "sub-standard care" that in 2003 had sparked the state's largest inquiry into patient care and safety standards. "It's become routine practice to leave anaesthetised patients unattended and to cover up negligence using any means necessary," the source said. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons executive director Dr John Quinn said: "I find the episode you are recounting almost non-tenable. Patients in a hospital operating theatre, who are given a general anaesthetic, are not left unattended. It just shouldn't occur."

Australian medical experts meanwhile have cast doubt on the hospital's version of events. Cancer Institute NSW head Jim Bishop said for a complex operation involving the removal of bowel cancer, it would be "very unusual" not to gain the patient's consent first. Professor Bishop said it was common practice for doctors to first perform scans, biopsies and follow-up tests to see whether the cancer had spread and if so, how far. Director of Research at the Sydney Cancer Centre, Bruce Armstrong said: "Best practice would generally be to seek formal consent, from the patient . to inform them of what was found and to conduct further investigations."

Medical Error Action Group spokeswoman Lorraine Long said: "Doctors and nurses are swamping our hotline with stories of negligence that make you want to cry." Mr Della Bosca said the incident was being fully investigated. "If the family has concerns, we would urge them to contact the Health Care Complaints Commission. Alternatively, they can contact my office." Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said: "This is one of the worse examples of patient care. To claim an internal report wasn't compiled until a week later is suspicious, to say the least."


Farmers reject Warmism

They KNOW climate

Many farmers in central Victoria are sceptical that global warming is real, despite the scientific evidence and the world-wide push for a carbon trading scheme.

Hot air hitting the dusty road ahead of Tom Lucas' farm resembles a dirty big puddle, which pools across the dividing line. Far beyond Mr Lucas' stunted wheat crops, soaked by an ill-timed wash of summer rain, the Prime Minister is calling climate change "an inconvenient truth" we can no longer ignore. Eight in 10 Australians believe urgent action is needed to save the planet, according to polls, and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says Australians have "had enough of the denial and scepticism of the past".

But across the dry paddocks of central Victoria, they are not so sure. "I think it's rot," says Mr Lucas, 72, a mixed farmer north of Bendigo. He stretches his worn hands over a home-made rainfall graph, pointing to the regular cycles of peaks and troughs on his Bridgewater farm since 1962. "It'll be OK," he says. "I think when we go back to a cycle of a few good years, everybody will forget about climate change and say: 'What was all that about?"'

There is a city-country divide on global warming. The Government's carbon emissions trading scheme was denounced by environmentalists, who said that if it was adopted globally it would guarantee the loss of the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu wetlands. But out here, many farmers denounce "scaremongers" and ridicule activists such as former US vice-president Al Gore. A new qualitative study of 36 landholders in the north-central catchment area, north and south of Bendigo, found that about half did not believe climate change was real. Many landholders pointed to past droughts and wet periods as proof the current dry spell was part of a natural cycle.

"A lot of them are experiencing a change in the climate and are quite happy to talk about seasons of change - such as having more summer rain and less spring rain. But the term 'climate change' has such loaded meaning for them," says the study's co-ordinator, Dr Rik Thwaites, of Charles Sturt University's Institute for Land, Water and Society.

In Bridgewater, Mr Lucas' neighbour, Andrew Broad, who is vice-president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, likens climate change to the emperor's new clothes. The farmers' group says the Federal Government's new 5 per cent emissions reduction target, which exempts agriculture until 2015, will indirectly hurt farmers by raising costs such as energy. "For Kevin Rudd to say if we don't introduce a carbon trading scheme, the Great Barrier Reef will be bleached and Kakadu lost, and for the electorate to believe it, is surprising," he says. "In Australia, it's almost blind acceptance that this is happening."

At Bendigo's sheep sales, stock and station agent Luke Nevins says the divide between the big city and the bush on climate change is staggering. Bagshot sheep farmer John Vincent, 83 - who recalls how the 1940s' summer dust storms were so dense you couldn't see across the road - reckons the climate will right itself within a year. Newly married Ryan Doak, 23, who works his father's mixed farm in Axedale, east of Bendigo, has not lived nearly so long but is no less passionate. "There's been droughts for the past 150 years; it's just a part of life. I reckon climate change is bull----. I think there's too many greenies out there getting into the Government's ear."

Dr Thwaites says talk of a two-degree average warming across the globe has no meaning for farmers. "You've got to understand how conservative these people are, and that the political baggage of climate change over the years doesn't just melt away overnight. They look at their own patterns and own records and they can't see the trends - maybe because they don't want to see trends," he says. "One farmer told me, 'If I believed it wasn't going to get any better, I'd slash my wrists'. Some are being driven not to believe because they think it means things will get worse and worse, whereas the reality is there will continue to be wet and dry years. But the modelling of climate change suggests the dry years might be dryer and more common."

Non-believers were also more confident in their ability to adapt to a dry climate through techniques such as direct-drilling crops, reducing livestock numbers and growing fodder crops such as lucerne. "There are plenty of people who don't believe in climate change who have managed to respond quite well," says Dr Thwaites.

By the roadside at Dingee, north of Bendigo, grain grower Colin Falls says his philosophy is to "live like today is your last day but farm like you're gonna farm forever". He has switched to sowing fields of wheat and lucerne over more spring rain-dependent crops such as canola. Excess grain is stored within the tall silos he started installing in 2000, to keep stock in reserve for lean years. "I believe God created the earth and one day he's going to let it crash and burn," he says. "I don't think there's anything man can do to control the climate, but you can adapt to it." He gestures from one side of the road to the other. "Country people see it this side and city people see it this side, and there's got to be a balance in between. In the country you're more aware of the earth because it's more than concrete, roads, pollution and noise. Farming is about extremes. We are probably sceptical about climate change because we are used to adapting to seasonal conditions."

And yet, there are signs of change. Bridgewater mixed farmer Chris Pollock says blossoms have started reappearing on the yellow box trees throughout his 647 hectares. He believes the drought is part of a 50-year cycle and doubts humans are to blame for climate change, but admits "something is happening" that he can't explain. "If you asked me 10 years ago about climate change, I would have told you it was bunkum. Five years ago I would have said it was bull----." And now? "You can't say no, can you. I can't farm as I did 10 years ago when I was certain it was going to rain. I used to use the spring flush to finish the feeding of my lambs and now I can't, so I'm lambing earlier."

Climate change was the feature exhibit at this year's Elmore Field Days, north of Bendigo, complete with school kids offering to calculate visitors' carbon emissions at the door - until one farmer told a year 3 student to "f--- off".

Field days treasurer Frank Harney - who last week housed a new load of 10-week-old piglets in RSPCA-accredited eco-shelters next to his grain crops - says farmers should see the opportunities offered up by climate change, such as potentially earning credits by sequestering carbon in the soil or by planting trees. "There was one bloke on the field days committee who helped me put up the sign for the feature and he said, 'You know, I'm dead against this climate change'. And I said, 'It's not about climate change, it's about having an awareness of what's going on in the world around you," Mr Harney says. "They can argue the cyclical thing, but something has changed that's stretching the parameters. Let's accept that and be smart about it. Otherwise you might as well stick your head in the sand and park a bike up your arse."


Warmist laws completely unnecessary

Rudd has failed to see through the vested interests that promote anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the theory that human emissions of carbon cause global warming. Though masquerading as "science based", the promoters of AGW have a medieval outlook and are in fact anti-science. Meanwhile carbon is innocent, and the political class is plunging ahead with making us poorer because they do not understand what science really is or what the real science is.

The Renaissance began when the absolute authority of the church and ancient texts was overthrown. Science then evolved as our most reliable method for acquiring knowledge, free of superstition and political authority. Suppose you wanted to know whether big cannonballs or small cannonballs fell faster. In medieval times you argued theoretically with what could be gleaned from the Bible, the works of Aristotle, or maybe a Papal announcement. In the Renaissance you ignored the authorities and simply dropped cannon balls from a tower and observed what happened - this was science, where empirical evidence trumps theory.

From 1975 to 2001 the global temperature trended up. How do you empirically determine the cause of this global warming? It turns out we can learn a lot simply by observing where the warming occurred: each possible cause of global warming heats the atmosphere differently, heating some parts before others. The pattern of warming is the cause's "signature".

The signature of an increased greenhouse effect consists of two features: a hotspot about 10 km up in the atmosphere over the tropics, and a combination of broad stratospheric cooling and broad tropospheric warming. The signature of ozone depletion consists just of the second feature. These signatures are theoretically derived by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and are integral to our understanding of how the atmosphere works. [1]

We have been observing temperatures in the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes - weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. The radiosonde measurements for 1979-1999 show broad stratospheric cooling and broad tropospheric warming, but they show no tropical hotspot. Not even a small one. [2]

Empirically, we therefore know that an increased greenhouse effect was not a significant cause of the recent global warming. (Either that or the signatures from the IPCC are wrong, so its climate models and predictions are rubbish anyway.)

Human carbon emissions were occurring at the time but the greenhouse effect did not increase. Therefore human carbon emissions did not increase the greenhouse effect, and did not cause global warming. So AGW is wrong, and carbon is innocent. Suspect exonerated - wrong signature.

Alarmist scientists (supporters of AGW) objected that the radiosonde thermometers were not accurate and maybe the hotspot was there but went undetected. But there were hundreds of radiosondes, so statistically this is unlikely. They have also suggested we ignore the radiosonde thermometers, and use the radiosonde wind measurements instead. When combined with a theory about wind shear they estimated the temperatures on their computers - and say that the results show that we cannot rule out the presence of a hotspot. But thermometers are designed to measure temperature, so it's a bit of a stretch to claim that wind gauges are accidentally better at it. Serious alarmist scientists do not claim that the hotspot was found, only that we might have missed it. The obvious conclusion is that the hotspot was too weak to be easily detected. We cannot collect any more data from the past warming, and there is no sign of the hotspot in the data that was collected - so the occasional claims that appear on the Internet that the hotspot has been found are simply wrong. [3]

So can we tell from the observed warming pattern what did cause the global warming? Unfortunately we have little idea of the signatures of some of the suspects, such as cosmic rays or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, so we cannot say except to note that ozone depletion was one of the causes.

Is there any observational evidence in favor of AGW? As of 2003, none at all.

The only supporting evidence for AGW was the old ice core data. The old ice core data, gathered from 1985, showed that in the past half million years, through several global warmings and coolings, the earth's temperature and atmospheric carbon levels rose and fell in lockstep. AGW was coming into vogue in the 1980s, so it was widely assumed that it was the carbon changes causing the temperature changes.

By the late 1990s ice core techniques had improved. In the old ice cores the data points were a few thousand years apart, but in the new ice core data they were only a few hundred years apart. In the early 1990s, New Scientist magazine anticipated that the higher-resolution data would seal the case for AGW.

But the opposite occurred. By 2003 it had been established to everyone's satisfaction that temperature changes preceded corresponding carbon changes by an average of 800 years: so temperature changes caused carbon changes - a warmer ocean supports more carbon in the atmosphere, after delays due to mixing. [4] So the ice core data no longer supported AGW. The alarmists failed to effectively notify the public.

After several prominent public claims by skeptics in 2008 that there is no evidence left for AGW, alarmist scientists offered only two points.

First, laboratory tests prove that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. But that observation tells us nothing about how much the global temperature changes if extra carbon enters the real, complicated atmosphere. Every emitted carbon atom raises the global temperature, but the missing hotspot shows that the effect is negligible.

Second, computer models. Computer models are just huge concatenations of calculations that, individually, could have been performed on a handheld calculator. They are theory, not evidence.

Governments have spent over $50 billion on climate research since 1990, and we have not found any actual evidence for AGW. [5]

So if there is no evidence to support AGW, and the missing hotspot shows that AGW is wrong, why does most of the world still believe in AGW?

Part of the answer is that science changed direction after a large constituency of vested interests had invested in AGW. The old ice core data provided support from 1985, the IPCC was established by the UN in 1988 to look into human changes to climate, and the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997 to limit carbon emissions. By 1999 the western political class were doing something, the western media were rallying behind "saving the planet", and scientists were being paid by governments to research the effects of human-caused global warming.

But then the evidence took science off in a different direction: the new ice core data in 2003, the missing hotspot in 2007, and the global temperature has stopped trending up since 2001 [6]. Governments, the media, and many scientists did not notice.

The remainder of the answer for the current belief in AGW is darker and more political. An offbeat theory in the 1970s, AGW was adopted by a group of about 45 atmospheric modelers and physicists. That group dominated climate science journals, peer reviewed each others papers, and hindered competing ideas by underhand methods [7]. AGW gained political support from proponents of nuclear power, and vice-president Gore appointed AGW supporters to science positions in the USA.

AGW grabbed control of climate funding in key western countries. Lack of diversity in science funding has been a major problem since government took over funding science in WWII. Science is like a courtroom - protagonists put forward their best cases, and out of the argument some truth emerges. But if only one side is funded and heard, then truth tends not to emerge. This happened in climate science, which is almost completely government funded and has been dominated by AGW for two decades. Skeptics are mainly scientists who are retired or who have moved on to other areas - their funding no longer depends on allegiance to AGW. The alarmists are full time, well funded, and hog the megaphone.

AGW was always promoted as being supported by nearly all scientists (though polls and history do not support this). Counting numbers of supporters and creating a bandwagon effect by announcing you are in the majority is a political tactic.

AGW always advanced principally by political means; as a scientific theory it was always weak, and now the evidence contradicts it. It's like a return to medieval times, where authority rules and evidence is ignored. Notice how the proponents of AGW don't want to talk about evidence of the causes? Anything but evidence of cause - attack people's motives, someone else "has the evidence", theoretical models, evidence that global warming is occurring, how important they are, what credentials they have, how worthy they are, the dog ate my evidence, "the science is settled", polar bears, anything. Talking about the evidence of the cause of global warming does not advance their cause. Politics says AGW is correct; science says it is wrong.

Science demands evidence. Evidence trumps theory, no matter what the political authority of those promoting the theory, even if they dress up in lab coats and have job titles that say "scientist". The hotspot is missing and there is no evidence for AGW. The alarmists cannot ignore this and continue to play political games forever. They are entitled to argue the case for AGW, but they should also acknowledge the evidence and inform the political class that AGW appears to be wrong - even if it means risking their status and their jobs (and yes, we scientists are also people who have kids and mortgages).

There are two central lies in the political promotion of AGW.

The first appears in Gore's movie. He gave the old ice core data as the sole reason for believing AGW (the rest of the movie presents evidence that global warming occurred, a separate issue). He said that increases in carbon caused increases in temperature in the past warming events. But Gore made his movie in 2005, two years after the new ice core data had established the opposite! Gore's weasel words when he introduced that segment show he knew what he was about to say was false. Who would have believed his pitch if he added "and each temperature rise occurred 800 years before the corresponding rise in carbon that caused it"? [8]

The second lie is the hockey stick graph, which presented the last thousand years of global temperature as the flat handle of a hockey stick and the next hundred as the sharply rising blade [9]. The hockey stick graph was heavily promoted by the IPCC in 2001, and the IPCC even adopted it as its logo before it got discredited. It is significant because most non-scientist AGW supporters seem to believe some version of the hockey stick. When the IPCC "scientists" who produced the graph were asked to show their data for past temperatures, they refused (true scientists share data). But one of those scientists was a British academic and subject to the British Freedom of Information Act, and after two years of stonewalling all was revealed. It showed they had grossly skewed the data (even omitting inconvenient data to a folder labeled "Censored"), and that the computer program used to process the data had the hockey stick shape built into it - you could feed it stock market data instead of tree ring data and you would still get a hockey stick! In reality it was warmer in the Middle Ages than today, and there was a mini ice age around 1700 from which we have since been warming ever since. [10] Finally, the sharply rising blade of the hockey stick is contradicted so far by actual temperatures, which from 2001 to 2008 have been flat - something all of the climate models got wrong.

Among non-scientists, AGW appeals strongly to two groups. Those who support big government love the idea of carbon regulations - if you control carbon emissions then you control most human activity. And those who like to feel morally superior to the bulk of their fellow citizens by virtue of a belief (the "warm inner glow" and moral vanity of the politically correct) are firmly attached to AGW. These groups are politically adept, are planning to spend your money and tell you how to eat, travel and how to live, and they are strenuously avoiding the evidence.

The media has avoided presenting information that undermines AGW, until recently. Instead they promoted alarmism, and discredited skeptics as being in the pay of big oil - while giving a free pass to Gore, who made a movie based on an obvious lie then made millions selling carbon offsets. The media is very keen to present evidence that global warming is occurring, but have you noticed how quiet it is on evidence that carbon emissions caused it?

In 2007 almost no one in the west knew that the hotspot was missing, that there was no evidence for AGW, that temperatures had been flat for six years, that the hockey stick was a fraud, or that Al Gore lied when he gave the old ice core data as a reason for blaming carbon. But due to the Internet the public is gradually finding out anyway, which risks further discrediting many media outlets. Why buy a newspaper if it's not going to tell you the actual news?

And as the public become generally aware, what politician is going to risk being so ideologically stupid as to unnecessarily wreck the economy by slashing carbon emissions? Hmmm, Kevin Rudd?


How to get people out of their cars?

As many as 650,000 State Transit commuters were left stranded at bus stops across Sydney last year after about 9300 buses failed to show up. Traffic jams, driver shortages, mechanical faults and industrial action have been blamed. Cancelled services rose 284 per cent in 2007-08 on the previous year, according to figures the Herald obtained from the Ministry of Transport last night. The number of trips cancelled by the 13 private bus companies that service Sydney's fringes fell by only 45 compared with 2006-07; the number of government bus trips cancelled was 9293. Taking into account the average busload of 70, the Herald has calculated that 650,000 people could have been affected. The worst-hit area was around Castle Hill where 4079 buses were cancelled. The Randwick district suffered 2311 cancellations.

In a report, the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator said it was concerned about the accuracy of the ministry's figures. The Ministry of Transport told the regulator "the increase in cancelled trips can be partly attributed to driver shortages and faults with the steering arm on certain buses". At this time last year, State Transit was forced to pull 300 of its gas-powered Mercedes-Benz buses off the road after cracks were found in the vehicles' steering rods, leading to hundreds of service cancellations a day during the replacement program. In March, faulty handbrakes were replaced on 18 Scania buses after one vehicle rolled on to live railway lines at Epping, narrowly missing a passenger train. In June, drivers boycotted 80 Volvo bendy-buses after the footbrakes on the new vehicles failed in short bursts.

But mechanical difficulties accounted for 30 to 40 per cent of the cancellations, the Herald has been told. The rest are usually the result of services running late. Timetables for dozens of bus routes have not been updated for as long as 10 years, and traffic congestion has become progressively worse. Timetables for services in George Street still say it will take 16 minutes to travel from Railway Square to Circular Quay, even in the worst period of the afternoon peak. But a recent report by the Auditor-General found the average peak-period speed in Sydney streets in the morning had slowed by 4kmh since 2004.

Raul Baonza, bus division secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, said State Transit needed to take a more realistic view of Sydney's congested roads. Increased traffic meant that supposed running times were clearly outdated. Drivers had to take a 30-minute break after five hours but with worsening journey times, the trips before a break or near the end of a shift ended up being cancelled, he said. Increasing official running times would require more buses and drivers to maintain all 99,000 services each week. "If they increase the running time, it will increase their costs," Mr Baonza said.

The chief executive of State Transit, Peter Rowley, said the rise in cancellations was mainly because of mechanical issues and industrial action. "The increase in cancelled services was significantly due to the steering-arm problem last December and the driver flu issue in August."


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