Thursday, May 20, 2010

Man dies while ambulance is "ramped"

Ambulance availability is severely curtailed by the fact that many hospitals will not take in patients immediately. An ambulance can be held up for hours just waiting to unload a patient -- which means it is not available to go to any emergencies which may arise during that time. Such delays are called "ramping". So hospital understaffing does kill people. Without ramping, the patient below would have been seen to within a few minutes

A WOMAN ran to an ambulance station, screaming for help as her husband lay dying in their home 150m away. Marlene Gouge had already called an ambulance after her husband Richard, 78, had a heart attack. But she said it took the best part of an hour for the ambulance to arrive.

The Maryborough great-grandfather died waiting, becoming the latest in a string of deaths linked to rural ambulance delays. It is believed the local ambulance was with a non-urgent patient at Bendigo Hospital for 2 1/2 hours, waiting for a bed to become available. It was therefore unable to respond to three Code 1 emergency callouts in the area that night, May 13. Mr Gouge's ambulance came from Avoca, 26km away.

Mrs Gouge became desperate during the long wait and ran to the nearby station. "I was running down the road screaming 'Please, somebody help me. Somebody help me' and I was crying," she said. "I thought, if nobody's going to come soon it's going to be too late."

She rang the doorbell several times, but nobody was in. "I was screaming, 'There's just nobody around. Why can't someone come and help me?' "I just ran back home. " I just wanted to be with him, and I lay on the bedroom floor with him ... It was pretty traumatic."

She couldn't understand why Maryborough's newly built ambulance station was not manned 24 hours a day. "They could have been here within five minutes of my phone call, but nobody was there," she said. What is actually going on with the ambulances around here? It was a long time to be hanging around when your husband is lying on the floor dying."

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said the ambulance took 38 minutes. The State Government's benchmark for Code 1 emergency ambulance responses is 15 minutes.

"It's a problem we have in a lot of country towns ... if you have that one more job than you have ambulances, the situation in rural Victoria is (that) the next ambulance has to come from the next town," the spokesman said.

Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie said Maryborough had been an area of concern for some time.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said he had asked for a detailed report on the matter.


More evidence of huge "stimulus" waste

Catholic canteens five times cheaper

SCHOOL canteens built by the Catholic school system under the $16.2 billion stimulus scheme are up to five times cheaper than those delivered by state governments.

The 500-strong St Lawrence Primary School at Bluff Point, near Geraldton, 420km north of Perth, is building a new architect-designed canteen measuring 10m by 7.5m - about the size of a double car garage - for $4053 a square metre.

By contrast, the tiny and unusable 8.47m by 3.1m canteens being built across NSW for between $550,000 and $600,000 are costing taxpayers $23,000 per square metre.

The Parents and Citizens Association of Tottenham Central School in central NSW, which has received one of those canteens, yesterday fronted a Senate inquiry into the Building the Education Revolution program to express dismay at what the school described as a "colossal waste of taxpayer and government money".

"We thought it was going to be great . . . when you're getting something worth $600,000, you don't think small," P&C president Rick Bennett said.

"The new canteen can't even store all our freezers, and with a pie-warmer, meat slicer and microwave on the stainless steel bench, there is hardly any room to prepare food."

St Lawrence Primary School principal Michael Friday attributes the hands-on approach within the Catholic system as the reason why his school had avoided the massive building cost public schools face under the BER.

Mr Friday said he had worked closely with a local architect to ensure a new canteen and other buildings could be built within budget. "We were lucky in that the Catholic system . . . seems to have handled it exceptionally well," he said. "I know the government schools were told, 'This is what you're getting at your school', whereas we got to ask for what was going to meet our needs."

The vast difference between the cost of buildings delivered by state governments and those delivered by Catholic schools was highlighted yesterday at the Senate hearing into the BER.

Bill Walsh, executive officer of the NSW Catholic Block Grant Authority, which is handling $1.03bn of funds and delivering architect-designed buildings at a fraction of the cost of the public sector, said the authority set maximum construction rates for all Catholic schools, to prevent price gouging and rip-offs.

"We know what a building should cost; we didn't allow any price gouging" Mr Walsh said.

"We don't allow builders to say 'You've got funding of $3m, so this building is going to cost $3m'."

Mr Walsh told The Australian school libraries, classrooms and halls were delivered at a maximum rate of $2451 per square metre, $2426 per square metre and $3500 per square metre respectively.

Those costings were based loosely on industry averages reported by construction group Rawlinsons, with a 40 per cent maximum levy added for all non-construction costs such as fitouts, site preparation and water and electricity installations.

By contrast the NSW Eduction Department estimates school libraries, classrooms and halls cost $5400 per square metre, $4271 per square metre and $5800 per square metre respectively.

Fronting the inquiry yesterday NSW Department of Education director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter said he "absolutely" stood by claims the NSW government "ensures value for money" under the BER. But he was unable to adequately explain the vast difference in costs of buildings delivered to Catholic schools from those delivered by the government, except to claim those NSW government buildings were of a higher quality.

In response, Mr Walsh said each building delivered to a Catholic school under the BER had been architect-designed to suit the school's need and was "best quality".

Tottenham Central School told the inquiry its new canteen was only half the size of the existing canteen, and was not able to fit all the equipment required to store and prepare the school's food supplies. The building was also not vermin- or dust-proofed and, until just last week, had no air-conditioning system.

The K-12 school already had a large canteen area, which included a 4.9m x 7.6m demountable canteen building, a 10.5m x 19.6m permanent shelter and a 2.4m x 7.6m secure storage area. Mr Bennett said the structure was worth "about $80,000", $520,000 less than what was paid under the government's stimulus program.

Mr Bennett said he was also annoyed that local contractors were not used in the building process.

At St Lawrence, the school canteen is part of a larger building that includes a cleaners' store, another storage room and a meeting room, with a total floor space of 104.2sq m and an allocated budget of $423,187. Mr Friday said it would be big enough to meet all health and safety requirements.


Unhappy NSW government school heads bullied into silence over waste

THE NSW government actively discouraged schools from self-managing projects under the $16.2 billion schools stimulus program and then muzzled principals who spoke out against government waste and mismanagement.

Fronting a Senate inquiry into the scheme yesterday, NSW Teachers Federation president Gary Zadkovich said NSW school principals who had spoken out against the scheme were "pressured into silence" and told they were required to be "positive advocates for public education".

"The principals who spoke out about problems with the program were pursued by department officers and pressured into silence by the use of the department's code of conduct," Mr Zadkovich said.

"That's the way our principals were treated when they sought to stand up for their school communities and advocate on behalf of their parents and students for the best deal possible for their school."

In one letter, read out to the inquiry by Mr Zadkovich, an education department employee berated a principal for "posting a negative message" to other principals on an internal email network and for "making public comment".

"It is evident that you breached the code of conduct and made public comment in the media," the letter said. "It is my expectation that in the future you do not engage in such activities."

Mr Zadkovich said school principals were "actively persuaded" to not self-manage projects, each receiving a letter from the department stating they could personally face $55,000 fines if injuries occurred on building sites.

In the letter, submitted to the inquiry, the department warned that schools that managed projects themselves could be "liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of extra building work", and principals would be required to report weekly on "expenditure, progress jobs and apprenticeships" or face the prospect of the federal government "ceasing the funding of the project".

School buildings delivered by the NSW government have cost about twice as much per square metre as those delivered by private and Catholic schools.

The director-general of the NSW Department of Education, Michael Coutts-Trotter, yesterday told the inquiry he "absolutely" stood by claims the NSW government "ensures value for money" under the scheme.

But he was unable to explain the difference in construction costs between state government-managed school buildings and all other school buildings delivered under the scheme, except to claim school buildings managed by NSW were of a higher quality.

Explaining why, he said public schools were provided with termite-resistant materials so as to avoid spraying.

Claims NSW government-managed schools were of higher quality were rejected by the NSW Catholic Block Grant Authority. It said all of its buildings were constructed to "best quality".


NSW school heater madness finally winding down?

They can only be used safely if the windows are wide open -- which means that almost all the heat escapes immediately, without warming the classroom! Only a government could be so stupid. Coutts-Trotter is also the man most responsible for the vast waste of "stimulus" money in NSW schools. Coutts-Trotter should trot off into the sunset ASAP

The NSW government is being accused of a cover-up after refusing to release test results it admitted showed "health effects" from unflued gas heaters on children in public schools.

It insisted fumes from the heaters did not pose "major health dangers". But the Asthma Foundation of NSW attacked the government's "vague comments" and said the results of an unreleased study should be made public urgently in the interests of tens of thousands of students and parents.

"Existing scientific studies do not support the thesis that these heaters are safe to operate in NSW classrooms," said the Asthma Foundation's chief executive, Greg Smith.

The report the government is holding is understood to show significant correlation between the unflued heaters and respiratory illness in children. The heaters are banned in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT, and in most developed countries, but 51,000 of them are used in NSW schools.

Draft findings from the government-commissioned report, which measured the health of students in 20 NSW schools, were presented to the NSW Education Department in March.

Some test results were emailed to researchers and public servants involved in the study, but they were followed immediately by another email asking them to delete the results.

It was not until a memo outlining the findings was considered by the NSW cabinet last week that the department quietly ordered a halt to the installation of 2500 new unflued gas heaters under the Building the Education Revolution program. The schools will now be fitted with heaters that are safer but in some cases at least twice as expensive.

The report, undertaken by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research last winter, may be tabled in Parliament today after the upper house passed a NSW Greens motion calling for its release.

The director-general of the Education Department, Michael Coutts-Trotter, said he would not authorise the release of the report until it had been published in a peer-reviewed journal, even though the results the government had seen were enough to put the installation of new heaters on hold.

"What we had hoped was that the process of peer-review would be complete by now," Mr Coutts-Trotter said. The department's advice is that the heaters are safe as long as classroom doors and windows are left open, he said.

He said the results he had seen pointed to "health effects but not major health dangers".

The Asthma Foundation said the Woolcock study was paid for by taxpayers and the findings should be released now.

The NSW Greens MP, John Kaye, also said it should be made public. "It is overwhelmingly in the public interest that this report is in the public domain."


Computer Models, Climate Forecasts and other Dice Games

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for an investigation into the IPCC/CSIRO computer models relied on for the scare forecasts of drought, floods and rising sea levels.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, challenged the IPCC claims that their computer forecasts have a 90% probability of being correct. “The World Bank computers did not forecast the Global Financial Crisis. “The British Met computers failed to forecast Europe’s frigid winter. “Computers were unable to forecast the spread of swine flu or volcanic ash clouds. “Since the introduction of its new computer program Queensland Health has been unable to pay their own employees properly. “And the Australian Weather Bureau cannot forecast next month’s weather.

“Yet we are asked to believe that the IPCC computers are able to forecast global temperature, sea levels, hurricanes, droughts and diseases for a century ahead. They promise that, if we just stop using coal and oil, everything will be rosy. “That is like betting our jobs, our industry and our energy and food supplies on a roll of the dice in the casino.

“There are about 20 Global Circulation Models using variable assumptions that claim to represent climate processes. “Every model uses suspect or manipulated data and disputed processes, is fudged to fit past data and its forecasts reflect the biases of the builder.

“In twenty or so years of forecasting, not one has yet made a forecast that has proven to be correct. Moreover, no two forecasts agree. “But we hope one gets it right soon so we can scrap the other 19 and so save a lot of money.

“Until then, all IPCC forecasts should be written in pencil. “And we should ignore them.”


1 comment:

Paul said...

We've had a few days in Cairns where all available ambulances on shift were ramped.