Sunday, July 19, 2009

Drought-stricken Perth: One last laugh at distinguished Australian zoologist Tim Flannery

People have been laughing at his alarmist climate prophecies for years now but I can't resist one more dig. See the graphic below. Fuller version here. The article has gone offline at its original source, "The West Australian" newspaper (originally June 25, 2004) but some pesky people keep copies of things.

Now read the latest news:

Winter rains pound Perth, and there's more to come

Perth has woken up to a cold and wet winter day, as a series of strong cold fronts brought drenching rain overnight and into this morning. The official rain gauge in Perth recorded 30.4 millimeters of rain since 9am yesterday, but Bickley in the Perth Hills recorded 52.6 millimeters, giving a welcome boost to the city's water catchments. Further south, Manjimup recorded 58 millimeters, while Whitchcliffe recorded 55 millimeters.

The rain is set to ease up this afternoon, but showers will again increase tonight with the chance of a thunderstorm and strong, squally winds. The weather will gradually deteriorate across south-west Western Australia during the next few days in the lead up to a period of cold gales, thunderstorms and heavy rain on Monday. By Tuesday around 30 to 50 millimeters of rain is likely across the southern Central West, Lower West and South-West, lifting July totals to within striking district of the long term average. The area from Perth to Margaret River should be the wettest, with more than 50mm for some.

The heaviest rain should occur early Monday as the strongest in a series of fronts crosses the region. Monday will also bring thunderstorms and gale-force winds, with gusts potentially exceeding 100kmh in coastal regions south of about Perth.

The showers will clear on Tuesday but yet another front is set to bring further widespread showers to South-West WA by around Thursday next week.


Tim should stick to what he knows about: Animal fossils

Public hospital clown caused fatal catastrophic bleeding, court told

There was blood everywhere in theatre and what did the clown prescribe? Blood THINNERS -- thus worsening the bleeding. He was already under scrutiny for incompetence but they didn't act soon enough to stop him. I blogged on this back in 2006. I am glad he is finally facing the music. There is a picture of him below, sitting up like Jackie, quite proud of himself

A Brisbane doctor has faced court accused of killing one of his patients when he allegedly improperly inserted a surgical drain which later caused extensive blood loss and multiple organ failure. Mother of two Nadia Annette Cvitic was 30-years-old when she died in 2002 following a radical hysterectomy performed by Dr Bruce Gordon Ward, a specialist in gynaecology oncology.

Mrs Cvitic underwent the surgery due to cervical cancer on February 11 but died in Brisbane's Mater Hospital on February 21. The cause of her death was determined as multiple organ failure caused by inadequate blood flow to vital organs as a consequence of blood loss.

On the first day of a trial in the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane, Dr Ward pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Crown prosecutor David Meredith, in his opening to the jury, said Dr Ward was accused of criminal negligence when he operated on Mrs Cvitic and when he failed to take competent post-operative care of her.

Mr Meredith said post-surgery, on 14 February, a surgical drain which had been inserted into Mrs Cvitic's pelvic area was removed and this caused "catastrophic bleeding." This happened because it had been inserted in such a way that the drain's exit point damaged a vein and blood vessels at the top of her leg, he said. "The prosecution says it was dangerous for the life and health of the patient to finish an operation with a drain in that manner," he said.

Using a medical mannequin and several tubes, Mr Meredith demonstrated how and where the drain was inserted into Mrs Cvitic. Mr Meredith said another element of Dr Ward's negligence was that he did not order blood tests which would have revealed a drop in haemoglobin levels which may have alerted medical staff there was internal bleeding. "No such tests were done," he said.

The trial is set to continue for eight weeks with dozens of medical staff to be called to give evidence. Three reserve jurors have been empanelled in the case, which is being heard by Justice Henry Fryberg.


Australian immigration levels pushing out young jobseekers

THE Rudd government's alarm about retiring Baby Boomers causing economic growth to fall is unfounded and its policy response -- to bring in tens of thousands of overseas workers a year -- is wrong because of the rapid rise in over-55s staying at work. According to a new report, a sustained increase in the labour force participation rate among men and women aged over 55 since the mid-1990s, continuing even as jobs are shed during the global economic downturn, should put a large question mark over the immigration program.

If immigration continues at current levels, the group most likely to suffer is young Australian jobseekers trying to enter the workforce, it concludes.

The report -- to be published next week by Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research in its People and Place quarterly -- concludes that, even if the net overseas immigration intake were halved from its current 180,000 a year between now and 2018, the labour force would grow by nearly a million workers, about two-thirds of whom would be over 55. "The Immigration Minister's fear that, without continued, unprecedented high levels of overseas migration, the Australian labour force will soon contract is unfounded," the report concludes. "In the present economic environment of employment decline, sustained high levels of overseas migration are not necessary to ensure adequate labour force growth and such levels are compromising the employment prospects of younger job-seekers."

The report's author, CPUR social researcher Ernest Healy, told The Australian the Rudd government "appears to have been more alarmist than it needed to be in terms of population ageing and labour supply. "The assumption by the government has been that all these Baby Boomers are going to retire and there will be this crisis of labour growth, but they simply don't seem to be retiring in the numbers the government has been expecting."

Dr Healy said that, although the study did not examine the reasons why older workers were staying at work, he suspected easy access to finance over the past two decades might have increased household debt. And since the falls in superannuation balances because of the global financial crisis, the over 55s needed to work longer to have enough funds for retirement.

Employers, it seems, are generally happy to have them. "The participation rate among older workers has stayed up even after the crunch," Dr Healy said. "They are hanging on to jobs across the occupational spectrum, including the skilled areas emphasised in migration programs."

The report -- Population Ageing and the Employment Surge among Older Australian Workers -- shows that, even after the economic contraction started last year, employment growth had continued for older workers, while for those aged 15-24 unemployment deteriorated markedly. Almost all the growth for older men had been in full-time jobs, while for women, more of it was part-time.

"Nevertheless, the growth in the proportion of older employed women in full-time work is significant, having increased by eight and six points for women aged 55-59 and 60-64 respectively," the report says. "This surge in the employment rate for persons age 55 and over is bad news from the point of view of the immediate prospects of young Australian jobseekers. At a time when the total number of jobs is shrinking, they face competition from both older persons and from the current record high migration intake."


Australians Open U.S. Med School

When Australia itself has to import large numbers of Indian doctors, this seems very odd

To produce more physicians for Louisiana, a major academic medical center has joined up with a medical school down under. The University of Queensland School of Medicine, in Australia, has opened a clinical school in New Orleans in cooperation with Louisiana's Ochsner Health System. Under the arrangement, students will travel to Brisbane for the first two years of medical school, then return to the United States to complete their third- and fourth-year clinical training at Queensland's new outpost at Ochsner. Those enrolled in the collaborative program will graduate with an Australian medical degree, a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), which is equivalent to an M.D., from Queensland.

This particular program is only open to American students and, while its graduates will be eligible to apply for an internship in Australia, the stated intent is to help address projected physician shortages in the United States, Louisiana especially. “The goal for them is to secure residencies and practice in the United States. Our Ochsner goals are to have our top students stay in Louisiana, and hopefully at Ochsner,” said William W. Pinsky, executive vice president and chief academic officer for the Ochsner Health System. The first 16 students in the program began their training in Australia in January; the goal is to admit 80 students this coming January and the following year, 120 more, “which would be our steady state.”

“This is quite a novel, transnational model of education. We’ve all talked about these sorts of things in the higher education sector for some time but as far as we know, this is the first, certainly the first in Australia, and we’re not aware of any other partnership like this in the United States," said David Wilkinson, dean of medicine and head of the medical school at Queensland

Queensland's medical school, which is positioning itself as "Australia's global medical school," also has a clinical school in Brunei, in Southeast Asia, and is in the early stages of establishing a shared teaching site in Malaysia, Wilkinson said. About half the medical school's students spend a portion of their studies overseas, and they can now come to Ochsner for a clinical rotation. "That's a very important part of this program, that we have mixed student cohorts," said Wilkinson.

Apart from the education component of the collaboration, Pinsky added, "To really make this a home run, we need to extend this further in terms of getting into a collaborative relationship with research."

Australian universities have been active in establishing branch campuses abroad, although, with the exception of Charles Stuart University's campus in Ontario (offering degrees in education and business), not typically in North America. In fact, rather than have their ranks reinforced from abroad, some U.S. medical schools have set up shop elsewhere -- take Cornell University's medical campus in Qatar, for instance, and Duke University's partnership with the National University of Singapore.

And while many university entities have developed joint, dual or otherwise transnational degrees in recent years, it's more complicated terrain in schools of medicine given licensure and accreditation requirements, and extra hurdles that foreign medical school graduates must jump in order to practice medicine in the U.S. -- including Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification.

In this case, a graduate of the Queensland/Ochsner program applying for licensure in Louisiana “will be considered an international medical school graduate, and will be required to go through ECFMG and meet the various requirements associated with that. But I imagine that would not be a problem, and that they’ll end up doing post-graduate training here in Louisiana, some of them at Ochsner, some in the growing network of Ochsner facilities,” said Robert Marier, executive director of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

Marier, a former medical school dean, said the Ochsner/Queensland partnership strikes him as pretty unique, “in one respect. There are offshore medical schools, international schools, in the Caribbean, for instance, which have established relationships with hospitals in the United States and they send significant numbers of their students, most of whom are also U.S. citizens, up to these hospitals for clinical training. That’s not new.... I think what’s different about this arrangement is Queensland is a great university, it’s not a for-profit off-shore medical school. It’s a great university and aspires to be a world player, and with good reason…. And Ochsner is a major, major teaching hospital, so I think it’ll be excellent clinical training for these students.”

“It’s very important to understand that this is a very serious and genuine attempt at an exciting transnational collaboration. This is not a, if you will, a Caribbean medical school, run by a bunch of businessmen. This is a very serious transnational collaboration between one of the world's leading universities and one of America’s leading integrated health systems,” said Wilkinson, the head of Queensland’s medical school.

Queensland’s School of Medicine is accredited by the Australian Medical Council, and the school has submitted an application regarding the new arrangement with Ochsner for the council's approval; the accreditor's decision is pending. “We are hopeful but we are also conscious that this is a novel partnership,” said Wilkinson.

As for those students who have already started the joint Queensland/Ochsner program, in the event that the accreditor does not approve it, or does not do so in a timely fashion, "students who enroll will be expected to complete their four year medical education at University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia," as Queensland's Web site for international applicants notes.

John Prescott, chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said that he was struck by the partnership given that Ochsner has had a long history of working with students from the medical schools at Louisiana State and Tulane Universities (Pinsky said the long-standing affiliations with Louisiana-based medical schools are continuing amid the development of its new partnership with Queensland).

“The prime difference is that the LSU students and the Tulane students are from schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education," Prescott said. The LCME is sponsored by the AAMC and the American Medical Association, and only accredits medical schools in the U.S. and Canada.

“I re-watched the press announcement where the governor [of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal] and others were talking about helping to meet the needs of Louisiana. If it helps to do that, wonderful, that would be a truly wonderful thing,” Prescott said (the AAMC has been among those calling attention to the projected physician shortage and need to increase medical school capacity). Other than that, Prescott continued, “I know the American system very well. I don’t know the system well for Australia, and would have to wait before I make further comment... I’d have to just see how this would roll out.”


African barbarism comes to Australia

AFRICAN immigrant girls are increasingly being forced by their families to have barbaric female genital mutilation, Immigration Minister Chris Evans has been warned. The minister has been told the painful ritual is almost certainly being practised here, and some girls may have been flown to Africa for the disfiguring procedure. Senator Evans received briefings "to respond to concerns that (mutilation) is increasingly being practised on permanent residents/Australian citizens". But community liaison officers said it was difficult to know how widespread it was.

Concerns have also been raised with the minister over growing levels of domestic violence in African communities, particularly against Sudanese women. "One possible explanation for this is that women no longer have the protection of their extended families as they would have in their home countries," he was told.


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