Monday, October 26, 2009

Incredible stupidity from the Australian medical bureaucracy

Yet another boneheaded and useless attempt at computerization. Britain has spent 12.5 BILLION pounds on their system and it still is not working. Let's hope the Australian authorities stop their nonsense long before that point

A FEDERAL scheme to provide thousands of GPs with communications encryption technology so they can send sensitive health information securely over the internet risks turning into an expensive white elephant because hardly any other health workers can decode the messages. A revamp of federal government incentive payments in August meant GPs must be signed up for the secure communications method known as "public key infrastructure" in order to remain eligible for grants worth up to $50,000 per practice each year.

The idea of the system is that it allows doctors to send sensitive patient data, including referrals and test results, to each other without risk of the information being seen by other people.

But Mukesh Haikerwal, one of the 10 commissioners who wrote the recent National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report, says the scheme is turning into a "superhighway to nowhere" because hardly any hospitals, specialists or allied health workers have the technology, and they have been given little incentive to adopt it.

Dr Haikerwal above. Good to see that he seems fully recovered from the vicious gang attack on him by Melbourne street thugs

"If everybody was connected, it would be a very useful thing to be doing," said Dr Haikerwal, a former Australian Medical Association president who is also a vocal advocate for greater use of information technology in health care. "But it's not (currently useful) -- either you stop the rollout, or you enable everyone to be part of the system. Ninety-eight per cent of us (GPs) are able to send stuff securely, but none are able to receive it in a secure electronic form, and none are able to send us stuff back."

Once GPs have signed up to the scheme, the federal Health Department sends them chip cards that encode a GP's identity, and the readers used to verify the card information and activate the system once a password is entered. Mini chip cards that fit into a USB key that plugs into the GP's computer are also being sent out. The federal Health Department estimates 10,000 GPs are likely to apply for the technology, and says 9000 have done so already.

Medicare sends the necessary equipment free to those who apply, but a Medicare Australia spokesman said the cost of this was commercial-in-confidence. Dr Haikerwal estimated that the cost of extending the technology to specialists could be $7000 to $10,000 a practice for the hardware, software and training, although not all of this would be expected to come from taxpayers.

Dr Haikerwal's concerns were backed by Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Chris Mitchell, who said there was no point in having a secure messaging system "that allows you just to communicate with yourself".

Stephen Johnston, head of national infrastructure services for the federal government's National E-Health Transition Authority, said the "whole health system has to be connected". "GPs are just one part of the story," Mr Johnston said. "But it won't happen overnight." A spokesman for the Health Department said take-up of the technology was "progressing" and predicted others would come on board steadily.


Crimes have gone unpunished after Victoria police failed to lay charges

Corruption is all that they are good at

HUNDREDS of crimes have gone unpunished after police failed to follow through and lay charges. An audit of the Victoria Police database has found more than 5000 cases in which an intent to charge on summons was documented but then not acted upon.

Among them are people accused of drug matters, crimes of violence and traffic breaches. The Herald Sun understands hundreds were cases that went uncompleted as the result of members telling offenders they would be charged then failing to take further action.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said most of the 5000 cases involved members not updating the system where charges had actually been laid, police being unable to find victims or members resigning or transferring to another office. "This situation is being monitored closely and Victoria Police is committed to resolving this issue quickly and thoroughly," the spokeswoman said.

The audit of the Law Enforcement Assistance Program database was started to reduce the number of matters that had gone unfinished.


Power in those old school ties

AUSTRALIA enjoys clout and access in the Asia-Pacific thanks to politicians and officials in the region who have not forgotten their student days here. This is the claim of a report released last week to talk up the non-financial benefits of the $16 billion industry in international education. "What we've found a bit distressing is that so much attention is given to the economic impact of international education," said Peter Coaldrake from the peak body Universities Australia, which commissioned the independent report. "It's important that we remind ourselves and everyone else of some of the other benefits."

Those benefits include more positive attitudes to Australia, open doors for our diplomats and a better hearing, according to the Hong-Kong based consultancy, Strategy Policy and Research in Education Ltd, which is behind the report.

The report says the son of Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a graduate of Curtin University of Technology, and the country's top three economic policy-makers have close ties to Australian education. In 2001-02, when the issue of East Timor's independence strained relations between Jakarta and Canberra, the Indonesian cabinet at that point had five Australian-educated members. This helped ease tensions, according to Ric Smith, a former ambassador quoted in the report.

The report makes much of the good work done in Indonesia and China by the Australian National University. Mr Smith said ANU economist Ross Garnaut played a remarkable role in the education of Chinese economists. "For a time those (ANU-trained) economists exerted disproportionate influence in China," he said. Former ANU vice-chancellor Deane Terrell pointed out that ANU's expertise in the region rested heavily on languages, a field under pressure in the education system.

The report attributes the rise of Australia's soft power in the region especially to the elite former students of the Colombo Plan. The report asks why they "appear to shine brightly against those who followed them in the fee-paying era for international students which began in the late 1980s".

It suggests the fruits of the Colombo Plan are well known because its former students have by now reached or passed the peak of their careers. "However, the far larger wave of fee-paying students is still to hit their career pinnacle ... expect to see more eminent Australian alumni emerge soon into senior roles in Asian countries," the report says.

Monash University's Bob Birrell said the report failed to come to grips with criticism of the overseas student industry, its poor standard of English and the "dumbing down" of courses popular with these students, many of them seeking permanent residency. "On outcomes (the report's) rosy assessment relies mainly on research which shows that some 90 per cent of overseas students in our universities successfully complete their courses. This is hardly surprising since the students have heavily invested in the course fees and thus have a very strong motive to finish," Dr Birrell said.


Green 'brainwashing' scaring preschoolers, say experts

PARENTS have accused early childhood centres of "greenwashing" their children by burdening them with the responsibility of saving the world. Tots as young as three have sent letters to Kevin Rudd about their passion for green living and asked companies to reduce their packaging. Others are growing their own food, repairing toys and walking to preschool in an effort to reduce their toll on the environment.

But experts have called for caution in teaching children about climate change because of the potential for fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and despair at catastrophic events.

Mother Paula Driscoll, from Sydney, said environmental disaster was the new nuclear holocaust. "Nuclear war and weapons were our big worry," she said. "This generation, their great worry is green. It is drummed into them everywhere."

Schoolchildren raised running out of drinking water, rising sea levels and the extinction of polar bears in a survey on their views last year. "Children of that age should not be thinking the world is coming to an end," Sydney father-of-three Andrew Potter, 35, said. "It is a form of propaganda."

Youngsters also put the environment at the top of their worry list - along with crime and terrorism - in research for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

"It is the adult world impinging on childhood," chief executive officer Dr Joe Tucci said. Ideally, children's strongest concerns should be about their friendships or toys, he said. He suggested that adults had to deal with the fact that children were exposed to bigger issues by helping them to understand them.

Australian Psychological Society guidelines advise caregivers to avoid strong reactions about green issues in front of preschoolers. In severe cases, climate change worries could escalate into anxiety disorders or depression, said psychologist Dr Susie Burke. "These issues are frightening and upsetting for adults and even more so for children."

Parents should not avoid the topics with their youngsters, but emphasise that they are safe now and that positive efforts for conservation are being made around the globe. "Families can teach children simple things they can do to help," she said.

Dr Lyndall Strazdins, a researcher at the Australian National University, said children needed to be recognised as a "very vulnerable group" in environmental action plans. "They are clearly feeling that there is a problem looming that they have to deal with," Dr Strazdins said.


The airline mayhem never stops

Federal police guard Tiger Airlines staff after passengers told they would be stranded in Hobart for three days

POLICE guarded Tiger Airways staff while they announced to a crowd of angry passengers they would be stranded in Hobart for three days.

Flight TT567 out of Hobart was cancelled on Friday night after a flight attendant became ill, and no replacement staff were available.

A passenger who was to return to Melbourne on that flight said federal police arrived at the terminal about 9.30pm on Friday night before the announcement was delayed.

Passengers stranded in Hobart are due to arrive in Melbourne tonight. Tiger Airways has been contacted for comment and will be issuing a statement shortly.


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