Sunday, May 03, 2009

Food research finds meat pie not so Aussie after all

WE might have taken ownership of it, but the pie belongs to Europe. According to Brisbane food historian Dr Janet Clarkson, who has spent years researching our culinary icon, the pie was invented as a way to preserve meat in medieval Europe.

The pastry, today an essential part of a good pie, was not meant to be eaten, The Courier-Mail reports. "There were no metal baking dishes or ways to keep food fresh, so the pastry was used both as cooking container and preserver," Dr Clarkson said. "Called a 'coffin', it was made with very hard rye flour up to seven inches thick and wrapped around the meat and baked. This could preserve meat for up to a year."

Author of the just released Pie A Global History, Dr Clarkson said the rock-hard pastry was given to the poor or crumbled up in the kitchens of the rich and used to thicken soups.

While the pie may today be an egalitarian symbol of our classless society, beloved by tradies and share traders alike, it was originally food for the rich, according to Dr Clarkson. "Only the wealthy had ovens. It wasn't until Victorian times that the pie became street food and popular fare among all classes."

So how did Australia come to adopt the pie as its culinary symbol? It was simply a case that all the ingredients were at hand. "Pies could only be made in countries that had wheat and dairy or pork. "With the focus firmly on meat and a low priority for vegetables, as well as being able to make them out of just about any meat it was the perfect settler food."

Since those days, Australia has embraced the pie. "Europe might have invented it, but Australia took over the pie and made it our own. I reckon today the rest of the world try to copy ours with our pastry and the types of meat we use", says Scott Barker, owner of Rock 'N' Roll Bakery in Brisbane's Greenslopes.


Another disaster looming as NSW hospitals computerize

Such projects rarely work. The British version has cost 12 BILLION pounds so far and is still not working properly after many years of trying

BY THE end of next year, every public hospital in NSW will move from paper patient notes to electronic medical records that can be accessed by any health worker, the Government has announced. The Minister for Health, John Della Bosca, said the $100 million project to digitise 250 hospitals will save money by eliminating duplicate diagnostic tests and imaging. It will also improve patient safety by alerting staff to a deteriorating patient and reduce the likelihood of errors.

Mr Della Bosca said doctors, nurses, allied health and social workers will be able to access a centralised repository of a patient's medical chart, laboratory results, prescriptions and referrals, no matter where the patient enters the health system.

Peter Garling, SC, recommended an urgent roll-out of electronic medical records (eMR) in his special commission of inquiry into acute care services, which found NSW's record-keeping system is "a relic of the pre-computer age" that puts patient safety at risk.

He said various hospitals and community health centres have established ad hoc databases but they were "spasmodic and patchy". The inability of distinct IT systems to synchronise with each other and lack of IT support staff meant clinicians had to rely on incomplete data to make important medical decisions and spent time chasing information.

Mr Della Bosca said the Government would make implementing information and communication technology within its capital works program a priority, which will make NSW Health the biggest IT user in Australia. A basic eMR system that allowed clinicians to order diagnostic tests and view results online was successfully trialled at St George, Calvary, Sutherland and Lismore hospitals last year and by last month 20 hospitals were using it.

"Prior to the introduction of eMR, some requests for medical imaging and pathology could require referral back to the requesting clinician due to incomplete or illegible hand-written records," Mr Della Bosca said. "This technology will improve the efficiency of hospital care and free up doctors and nurses to focus on patients and not paperwork, which will further improve patient safety."

The next step will link hospital-based records to primary care providers, such as GPs, by way of an electronic discharge summary. But the Health Action Plan For NSW, released in March, revealed the Government would not meet Mr Garling's 18-month deadline for a digital radiological imaging system. This is to be set up in every public hospital to electronically transmit medical images to remote locations.

And an electronic health record, which would extend patients' information beyond hospital walls to all GPs, specialists and health systems in other states, was not possible without a national e-health strategy, it said.

A report commissioned by the Federal Government last December found state and federal governments have spent $5 billion on electronic health initiatives over the past 10 years but have made little progress towards creating a national system for sharing information.

NSW Health has admitted that two previous attempts to implement electronic medical records in 1991 and 1999 had failed, at a cost of $12 million and $30 million respectively.

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission has recommended an individual patient-controlled electronic health record owned by the patient who decides which health care providers can access it.



AUSTRALIA'S electricity generators have warned the Rudd Government that power stations could face insolvency this year under an emissions trading scheme that forced such rapid change it risked "blowing up in their faces".

The National Generators Forum told a Senate committee yesterday that many power stations would simply not be able to afford the 100 to 200 per cent increase in operating costs under the current plan to require them to buy more than 80 per cent of necessary emissions permits. This would leave some insolvent and all struggling to find $50 billion in new and refinancing capital over the next five years.

The forum said the $3.9 billion compensation in free permits on offer fell short of the $10 billion or more in asset value loss they would suffer.

The warnings came as the Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said there was almost no chance the Nationals would agree to emissions trading amendments being prepared by the Liberal Party in preparation for Senate negotiations over the Government's "carbon pollution reduction scheme".

"I think it is exceptionally, exceptionally unlikely that an alternative emissions trading scheme would be any better, any less tokenistic, than the Government's emissions trading scheme," Senator Joyce said.


NSW police goons again. This lot ordered to pay $55,000 for wrongful arrest

POLICE have been ordered to pay $55,000 in compensation to a man for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment over a minor traffic infringement.

The payout to Brendan William Stocks came in the same week the NSW Police were ordered to pay $306,000 in damages to another man because officers abused their powers of arrest. On April 20 in Downing Centre District Court, Judge Kevin Coorey found that constables Brent Dutoit and Shaun Skehan of Quakers Hill acted unlawfully in arresting and falsely detaining Mr Stocks at his Riverstone home when investigating a traffic breach on March 21, 2004. The officers asked who was driving the car when the offence occurred.

In a statement of claim presented to the court, Mr Stocks's lawyer said that, at the time of his client's arrest, his jaw had been medically wired shut so it could heal from a fracture caused by an incident unrelated to the traffic offence.

Mr Stocks told the officers that his car was not involved in the incident a month earlier but, instead of police dealing with the case by issuing an infringement notice or summons, he was placed under arrest for refusing to disclose the identity of the driver. He was dragged struggling from the house.

Judge Coorey heard that, during the three hours Mr Stocks was held at Quakers Hill police station, officers refused to hand over surgical wire cutters issued to him by a doctor to cut the wiring in an emergency if he vomited or gagged on food. Mr Stocks has declined to comment about the award.

On April 23 Allan Frederick Hathaway was awarded $306,000 in the Supreme Court by Justice Carolyn Simpson after she found Wagga Wagga police had assaulted and maliciously prosecuted him in what she described as a "misuse and abuse of police power". The case involved an incident in February 2003 in which police assaulted Mr Hathaway with a baton, fracturing his face and arm.


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