Sunday, July 26, 2009

Four years to ban a horror surgeon

The usual level of protection that you can expect from Australia's medical "regulators". There has got to be some means of fast-tracking this sort of thing

A SURGEON being sued for allegedly performing botched gynaecological operations - some without consent - on women in WA public hospitals has been banned from practising medicine. The obstetrician and gynaecologist, who has now left the country, has been permanently stripped of his right ever to work as a doctor in WA.

The ban comes as the Medical Board of WA pursues further shocking allegations of misconduct by the surgeon involving more than 100 female patients. The Sunday Times can now reveal the first details of what is potentially the most serious medical scandal in the state's history after a blanket suppression order was partially lifted on Monday following legal action by this newspaper and the Medical Board.

It can now be reported: The doctor is facing civil court claims that could result in large compensation payouts for the State Government. One woman interviewed by The Sunday Times said she was ``angered and disgusted at the outcome'' and the doctor had left her ``feeling and thinking I'm not normal''.

While knowing of the investigation against him, the doctor attempted to cover up the allegations while trying to obtain work overseas. He lied in an interview and produced fake documents of his good standing in WA.

The judge who banned the doctor ruled his behaviour as ``disgraceful or dishonourable'' conduct for a member of the medical profession. The scandal was so serious former attorney-general and health minister Jim McGinty thought public exposure so important he personally intervened and challenged the suppression in late 2007. He lost the application.

The Medical Board lawyers have been fighting to suspend the doctor since November 2005 and have filed 14 complaints against him in the State Administrative Tribunal. The Sunday Times, which understands all potentially affected WA patients have been contacted by health officials, has been investigating the scandal for more than a year, fighting to bring the case to the public's attention.

The doctor is also being sued by five former patients in the District Court, seeking personal-injury damages for medical negligence. More civil actions will follow in coming months. One woman claims in a writ that surgery performed by the doctor ``constituted trespass as it was performed in the absence of the plaintiff's consent to do so''.

Another alleged victim and her husband filed a writ over a botched sterilisation in which the doctor failed to apply a fishie clip to her right fallopian tube and resulted in her becoming pregnant and having a child.

The doctor at the centre of the scandal is now believed to be in South Africa, having fled halfway through the tribunal and court proceedings. He hasn't worked in WA since June 2006.

Tribunal president John Chaney ordered the doctor's permanent work ban in March this year and in a judgment found he deceived South African health officials while trying to work at a hospital near Durban....

Judge Chaney allowed his judgment to be made public but he ordered the continued suppression of the doctor's identity and all details of the 13 unresolved tribunal cases, including patient names

Mediation is listed for later this year but one alleged victim said she was ``angered'' that she has been gagged from talking about her case and the length of time taken in hearing her complaints. Health Minister Kim Hames declined to comment. The Sunday Times has lodged an appeal in the WA Supreme Court seeking to overturn the remaining suppression orders and allow us to inform the WA public about what is going on.


A young woman who likes correct grammar

Poor grammar is still unprestigious but finding people with good grammar is becoming harder as it is no longer taught in the schools

It was a Monday morning; he was frothing milk as we chatted idly about the drunken antics of our respective weekends. All the usual stuff - the people we knew in common, the places we had almost run into each other, the quality of the cocktail jugs at various Sydney locations. He might have been carefully watching the temperature gauge rise on that little jug of milk, but we both knew where the real heat was. Just as I was about to casually invite him to a rock gig he dropped a clanger.

‘Yeah I like World Bar. Dave and me were there last Thursday.’ Instinctively, impulsively, STUPIDLY I fired back. “You mean Dave and I were there.” Because nothing says “we should go out” like a grammar check.

He looked at me like I was a three week old sausage roll he’d found wedged into the tread of his shoe, mumbled a ‘“yeah, whatever” and went back to making the coffee. Silently.

It’s a look I get often. As a grammar Nazi I am the irritating friend who corrects Facebook posts from “there” to “their.” The one who has to hold back facial spasms whenever someone says “youse.” I am something of a rarity amongst my peers – a 22 year old who adores a well constructed sentence.

As a card carrying member of Gen Y, I am a product of an education system that is more focussed on alliteration and assonance than the basics of adverbs and adjectives. Somewhere during my schooling (all done at state public schools) we jumped from learning the alphabet, to examining the themes of novels and plays. The participles and pronouns – in truth the finer points of basic grammar - were lost by the wayside.

Now this isn’t to say I had a poor English education. Far from it. I had some wonderful and enthusiastic teachers during my years at school. I learned to love and appreciate good literature, I learned to debate and discuss in my essays and by the end I achieved some very good results in my HSC. To put it bluntly I fulfilled everything that the NSW English curriculum required of me. But where was the grammar? That basic stepping stone schooling that older generations had to go through.

I asked my mother about what her English education was like and she told me all about “parsing,” - basically pulling apart sentences. Examining their structure. Learning exactly what adverbs, verbs, nouns and pronouns were. Getting drilled and tested on it day in, day out. Sure it’s boring, but so is algebra – and at least it’s a sure bet you’ll need to use grammar later in life. I’m struggling to remember the last time I had to work out the value of ‘x,’ but I’m always unsure whether it’s meant to be ‘learned’ or ‘learnt.’ Why are we not still taught grammar like this at school?

What’s scary is that in my first year of a journalism degree at University, my lecturer handed out a basic grammar and punctuation test. Unsurprisingly, the entire class performed dismally. We couldn’t conjugate if our lives depended on it.

And what’s scarier is that to a certain degree they do. Name me an employer who is going to hire a young graduate doesn’t know the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its.’ In these times of growing unemployment and job un-security it could be the difference between getting an interview, or having a resume tossed into the reject pile.

I believe it’s time that grammar was brought back into schools, and I believe it should be done quickly – before we start having generations of English teachers who themselves don’t know the difference between a verb and an adverb.

And as for me? I changed coffee spots. The barista might have been hot but I’m hoping there’s someone out there for me that can use prepositions properly as they proposition me.


Another big government medical bungle

Something very similar happened in Britain a couple of years ago but do governments ever learn? Rhetorical question

HUNDREDS of international medical students were told this week they would not be guaranteed internships in NSW public hospitals because there are not enough staff to supervise them. The warning comes despite the Federal Government ramping up university places in the past three years to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors.

The students, who each paid about $200,000 in course fees, are furious, saying it is now too late for them to get internships in their home countries and any forced break between the end of their studies this month and starting work in a hospital was "career suicide".

For the first time, the State Government invoked a priority system this year when 879 students applied for 670 positions, saying it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

The Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, has blamed a surge in the number of interstate students applying for jobs in NSW because they have been unable to find enough supervised roles in their home states. It said the problem was compounded by some students accepting multiple internships in several states, then not showing up for work when the rotations began in January.

Under the priority system, NSW students are offered places first, then Australian and New Zealand residents from interstate, then other international students studying in Sydney.

But overseas students have been told final offers will not be made until January, well after interns overseas have started their hospital rotations. "We're shell-shocked," one student said. "All along we've been assured we would get placements, then on Monday afternoon we got a two-line email rejecting us. "We wanted to live our lives in Australia and work in the NSW hospital system. Now we don't know what to do. You just can't take a break between university and vocational training. It is virtually impossible to get back in."

Medical student numbers in NSW soared from 493 in 2007 to 1104 last year, prompting universities to issue warnings the health system would not be able to support the rise. "These are people who want to work in the system," the president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Pesce, said yesterday. "They've paid for something and they have every right to be angry that they are not getting it. "What is the point in training yourself if you are not able to work as a doctor at the end? The Government needs to make a serious commitment to investing properly in training these people. It's an investment, not a cost."

The president of the Australian Medical Students Association, Tiffany Fulde, said hospitals were facing a "student tsunami" which would only worsen with three more medical schools turning out graduates in the next three years. "The system isn't coping now, so where will we be when we have double the number of students?" she said.

In April, the dean of medicine at the University of Sydney, Bruce Robinson, said the restrictions made NSW a "less attractive destination" for international medical students. "[It] places an extraordinary additional stress on them," he said. "International students in every year of their medical studies are rightly expressing deep concerns about their future prospects, and [this] is detracting from their experience of studying here," he said.

International students deserved a "fair go", he said. "We simply would like to be able to offer our international students the same education and training opportunities as we provide for our local students."


Conservative wobbles over climate laws

There is a widespread awareness among Australia's Federal conservative politicians that global warming is a hoax but they also see various political hazards in completely rejecting Warmist laws. The conservative coalition as a whole is fairly demoralized and disorganized so they are not game so far to declare that the emperor has no clothes. With strong leadership they could probably win an election by proclaiming the hoax but they don't have such leadership so would almost certainly lose an election fought on that basis

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described the Opposition's demands on climate change as a "shopping list" aimed at patching up divisions within the Coalition. The Opposition says it is willing to vote for the emissions trading scheme (ETS) if the Government agrees to a number of changes.

Mr Rudd says he is surprised Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has put forward a raft of amendments, just 19 days before the ETS will be voted on. "[It is] a shopping list, which I think has more to do with patching up some of the internal divisions in the Liberal Party than it has to do with much else," he said.

Mr Turnbull has today responded to criticism of his emissions policy backflip, particularly from backbencher Wilson Tuckey. "The shadow cabinet is as arrogant as Wilson Tuckey is humble," he said. He has also refused comment on whether the policy change is simply about stopping the Government calling an early election.

Mr Turnbull says he is confident he will get the support of a majority of the party room on an ETS. "What we've said is that if the scheme is presented in its current form on August 13 then we will vote against it and that's what we agreed to do in the party room," he said. "If the changes are satisfactory, if they address the issues that we've set out in the statement and it's a different scheme, then we'll take it back to the party room."

Some National senators have expressed concerns about the change of position, but Mr Turnbull told Saturday AM it is rare for any decision to have the entire support of the party room. "We're not seeking unanimity we're seeking consensus, we're seeking the support of a majority," he said.

He has conceded that there is little chance the Government will hold off on voting on an ETS until after the United Nations climate change meeting in December. "As far as the delaying a vote until after Copenhagen, I still believe that would be more prudent and we make that point in the statement," he said. "But the reality is, Mr Rudd is the Prime Minister, he's running the legislative agenda, he's going to force a vote before Copenhagen - that's his decision.

"And so the question is, presented with that less than ideal timing, how do we react to it? And so we are reacting to it in a constructive and effective way that the Australian people will understand, is an Opposition that is seeking to engage and ensure as best we can that the emissions trading scheme is right for jobs and right for the environment."


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