Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Four current articles below:

Federal government plan to cut its healthcare spending hits a rock

If the federal coalition wants to sink Labor's plan to cap Medicare payments for IVF treatment they've got a willing partner, with the Australian Greens declaring they'll vote against the change. The Rudd government wants to cap reimbursement for a range of items under the extended Medicare safety net - including IVF and obstetric services - in order to save $258 million over four years.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon argues Labor is cracking down on excessive fees being charged by specialists, and the changes won't affect patients charged $6,000 or less for IVF treatment.

But the Greens says the extended safety net is itself inflationary and they'll oppose Labor's changes in the Senate. "While the Greens understand the intent of the proposed changes is to reduce the costs to the public purse, we are not convinced that the government's approach will be effective," health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "(Labor's) legislation is a half-way house - it only addresses part of the problem and will introduce another set of inequities."

Senator Siewert said the extended safety net advantaged those who could afford to pay upfront fees, and encouraged specialists to raise their prices. It was an "inflationary measure", she said. "The government's amendments are simply to use patients to pressure specialists to reduce their fees, which is unfair to the patients, and ultimately likely to prove ineffective in reducing the burden of unnecessary costs on the public purse."

Earlier today, the coalition announced it would join forces with Family First's Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon to delay a vote on the changes. It will move an amendment in the Senate to stymie debate until the government tables regulations outlining exactly who'll pay what under the new scheme.

The upper house was expected to debate Labor's legislation this week, but with senators still thrashing out changes to renewable energy targets there's now a possibility it will be deferred until September.


Labor Party's attack on private health insurance set for Senate defeat

THE Federal Government is set to add another potential early election trigger to its arsenal, with the Senate likely to vote down its changes to the private health insurance rebate this week. The Opposition vowed to block the move earlier this year because it breaks a Labor election pledge, and key cross-bench senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding are now indicating they'll also vote against the measure.

On Tuesday, the Senate defeated Labor's draft laws which would have allowed universities to charge students a compulsory $250 services and amenities fee. Last week, the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme was also voted down in the upper house. If defeated Bills are reintroduced after three months and again voted down the Government can call an early election.

Under Labor's changes to private health insurance, the 30 per cent rebate will be means-tested for individuals earning more than $75,000 a year and couples earning more than $150,000 a year. In a double whammy, the wealthy will also be hit with a higher Medicare levy surcharge if they opt out of private cover.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says it would be "fiscally irresponsible'' for the Coalition to sink the changes, which are expected to raise $1.9 billion over four years. "I don't think that people think it's appropriate for secretaries and nurses to be funding the private health insurance of millionaires,'' she told ABC Radio on Wednesday. "Why is that a good use of public money.''

But Family First's Steve Fielding says the changes undermine families, because they don't take account of how many children are in the household. "I won't be supporting the Rudd Government's proposal to means-test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate because it's unfair to families,'' Senator Fielding said in a statement. "Under the Government's proposal, a couple with no children on $149,000 will be eligible for the full rebate, while a family of five with a household income of $150,000 would have their rebate reduced. This makes no sense and undermines the family.'' Senator Fielding said he was happy to negotiate with the Government "but the health minister is yet to get back to me''.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon insists he can't support the move until the findings of a Productivity Commission report are released later this year. "The Government made an explicit election promise not to change the rebate,'' he said today. "That's something that people relied on at the last election. I think it's a question of trust.''

The Australian Greens support means-testing the private health insurance rebate but not the surcharge hike. "The Medicare levy surcharge unfairly penalises people who have chosen not to take out private health insurance and support the public health system,'' health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "The Government is targeting conscientious objectors.'' Senator Siewert said the Greens would move to split the bills so the Senate could vote on each measure separately.


Another state-of-the-art government hospital

DOCTORS at one of Sydney's oldest hospitals are demanding the State Government urgently rebuild what they claim is ''a slum'', with possum urine on the walls and dangerous cabling snaking across the floors in the operating theatres. More than 40 senior clinicians at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital have called for a meeting with the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, in a bid to have the hospital renovated before it becomes too unsafe for staff and patients.

Doctors say most of the operating theatres lack emergency arrest buttons, forcing nurses to yell for help; the theatres are too small for modern equipment, which blocks hallways; and wires hang from ceilings and cables run across the floors, putting staff at risk of electrocution. Some ceilings had collapsed from rain damage and possum nests were found near wards.

''It is offensive and medieval,'' the hospital's clinical director of surgery and anaesthetics, Pip Middleton, said yesterday. ''This hospital serves a burgeoning population of young and old with new housing developments everywhere and is on the crossroads of major freeways, yet we have a significant issue with ageing infrastructure.''

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital admits about 18,000 people a year and has more than 1500 staff, but its physical condition was ''one of the worst in the state'', the chairman of the medical staff council, Richard Harris, said. ''It is really 19th-century stuff. The only thing that keeps this place going is the goodwill and expertise of the staff.''

It was one of the few in NSW without a coronary care unit, despite research 60 years ago that mortality rates from cardiac arrest were halved if patients were treated in a specialist unit rather than a medical ward, Jason Sharp, a cardiologist, said.

The executive clinical director and head of rehabilitation and aged care, Sue Kurrle, said most of the hospital was ''slum-like and primitive with patients living cheek-by-jowl''. ''There is no privacy, there are holes in the floor, possum wee on the walls. Staff have to jostle to look at the one computer on each ward to get blood test and X-ray results. It is simply third-rate.'' The geriatric and rehabilitation wards survived on bequests from former patients, she said. ''We'd be living in a slum like the rest of the hospital if it wasn't for that money.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Della Bosca said staff had been given $1.3 million for maintenance last year and $21 million had gone towards a building to house a new emergency department and maternity ward. The chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, will meet doctors today.


The difference one dedicated doctor can make

There should be such a facility in every capital city. If needed, fire a bureaucrat to pay for it. Strokes are very common and it is a scandal if people are left needlessly disabled by them

BRITISH tourist Jean Pollock would be severely paralysed - if not dead - if she had not had her brain "vacuum cleaned" at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Instead of a life of disability, she is looking forward to resuming her holiday after Lotto-sized odds allowed her to shrug off a devastating stroke.

Ms Pollock, 53, flew in from Glasgow planning to surprise relatives by turning up unannounced at her sister-in-law's 50th birthday party in Bendigo this weekend. While visiting friends in Lockleys on Wednesday morning she suddenly slumped, her left arm and leg paralysed, her face droopy and her vision affected. A huge blood clot had blocked an artery in the right side of her brain - a stroke.

Serendipity stepped in. Her friends were aware enough to immediately call an ambulance. Being in Lockleys meant she was in the QEH catchment. The ambulance officers were trained to recognise stroke and called ahead to alert the QEH stroke unit. As seconds played out, the stroke team swung into action, knowing time was as tough an enemy as the clot itself.

On arrival at the QEH, Ms Pollock was quickly assessed with tests including CT scans which confirmed a blood clot in her brain, and that she was clinically eligible for the clot-busting drug tPA. The streamlined stroke management team ensured she had the drug within the mandated three-hour time limit from the onset of stroke. But as one of the 40 per cent of patients on whom the drug doesn't have the desired effect, Ms Pollock faced a future of having her left side paralysed from stroke - or even death.

Serendipity, however, meant she had been brought to one of only two hospitals in Australia with the Penumbra Device, the other being Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital. The QEH has quietly worked to have its stroke unit equipped and trained as an internationally-recognised centre of excellence. Unit head Dr Jim Jannes had seen the Penumbra Device during a conference in Barcelona, and after checking its potential had successfully lobbied to have the $60,000 device installed at the QEH. Since February, two women suffering strokes had been treated by the machine, improving their recovery, although each still faces lengthy rehabilitation.

On Wednesday morning, with the clot-busting drug not working, Ms Pollock was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to allow one more treatment option - the Penumbra Device. Interventional radiologists Steve Chryssidis and Ruben Sebben used the machine to carefully guide a catheter up arteries from Ms Pollock's groin all the way to her brain, while she was conscious. When it reached the clot a probe gently broke up the clot and it was sucked down the tube, clearing the blockage. "There was a big clot blocking her artery and killing her brain - we went in and just vacuumed it out," Dr Chryssidis said.

Dr Jannes said the stroke team weighed up the situation and decided the chance to restore a good quality of life to Ms Pollock outweighed the substantial risks of the procedure. "She went from being paralysed to giving me the thumbs up from the operating table when the procedure was over," Dr Jannes said. "There is nothing more successful than a complete recovery. She would have been left paralysed, possibly dead, if we had not been able to offer her other treatment."

Ms Pollock faces several days of tests but is expected to be released from hospital early this week, fully recovered. "Someone was looking after me - I get goosebumps just thinking about the odds of what might have happened if I had been somewhere else," she said."You have an absolute jewel in the QEH, you should be proud of the work they do."


Students fees set for defeat

For years there was the obnoxious situation where all students were forced to pay fees that were largely spent on far-Left activities. The Labor government has been trying to bring that situation back

A FEDERAL Government plan to slug university students with annual fees of up to $250 is facing certain defeat after Family First senator Steve Fielding and the Nationals flagged they would not support it. An upper house vote on Labor legislation allowing universities to charge students up to $250 a year for sporting, cultural, welfare and advocacy services is expected today.

The draft laws wind back the Howard government's Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU), which eliminated the payment by tertiary students of compulsory service fees. Youth Minister Kate Ellis said it was not a return to compulsory student unionism because the money collected could not be used for political purposes [You wanna bet?]. "It's not a return to the past,'' Ms Ellis said today. "This is a new way forward, it's a balanced approach.''

But the move is destined to fail. The Coalition has united to oppose the bill after a Nationals amendment proposing to have sporting facilities "alone'' covered by the fee was defeated. Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the amendment recognised that a university was more than just an academic institution but the government, the cross-bench and even the Liberals disagreed.

"The National party amendments ... are far too narrow,'' Labor frontbench senator Kim Carr said. National Union of Students president David Barrow called on the Nationals to support the bill anyway. "We urge the Senate Nationals to support regional students by supporting this legislation when it comes to the vote,'' he said.


Face-saving deal struck on renewable energy

It is setting a totally unrealistic goal that will not be reached and everyone knows that but it is meant to tell the Greenies that they have been listened to. It will however lead to a lot of useless spending of taxpayer funds on windmills etc. But there has already been a lot of that in Australia and in most of the developed world. Even India seems to have been conned into it

AUSTRALIA is in for a huge boost in renewable energy after the Federal Government and the Opposition agreed to a deal. The deal, agreed today, will see the Government's Bill to have 20 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 pass the Senate.

"The Opposition's key concerns have been met by the Government," Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said in Canberra. "We are delighted that Australia is set to have renewable energy legislation, and the Coalition will support the renewable energy target of 20 per cent for Australia."

Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb said there was now "100 per cent bipartisan support" for the Bill. "The position we got to with the Government has had the unanimous support of the Coalition party room, which is a great result," he said.

The Senate is due to continue debating the Renewable Energy Target (RET) bill this afternoon and a vote is expected tomorrow. The Senate last week voted down the proposed emissions trading scheme, which is separate to the RET.


Murder a toddler? No jail if you are a feral

The toddler was Aboriginal. Welfare authorities knew of the case before the killing but probably threw up their hands from the beginning as Aboriginal families are very commmonly severely dysfunctional, with child abuse frequent. And it is absolutely VERBOTEN to take children away from black families. That used to be done sometimes but in recent years the Left set up a huge howl about "The stolen generation" (the black children fostered out to white families) in reference to the practice. The authorities obviously now feel that it is better to let black kids die than risk any more of that abuse

Rachel Pfitzner was ordered to address her anger management problem exactly a year before she murdered her toddler son, The Daily Telegraph reports. A judge handed her a suspended jail term so she could get the help she needed - and look after her children.

Twelve months later her two-year-old son Dean Shillingsworth was dead, his tiny body shoved into a suitcase and tossed in a duck pond. Pfitzner, 27, yesterday pleaded guilty to murder, the Crown rejecting her claim it was an accidental death. She now admits she murdered him - and meant to end his sad, short life.

Pfitzner faced Acting Judge Joseph Moore in October 2006 over a violent attack on Dean's grandfather and the judge had some sympathy for her. She was the mother of three small children with an alcoholic partner, Paul James Shillingsworth who was also prone to rages. Judge Moore made it a condition of her release that she get help - "especially anger management".

Perhaps if she had listened, or indeed the system had worked, Dean would still be alive.


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