Monday, May 31, 2010
Urgent ambulance plea ignored
A SUBURBAN footballer known for his wide smile and friendly nature has become another victim of Victoria's ambulance crisis. Sunbury footballer Stephen Buckman, 20, died in hospital on Thursday after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance - five minutes outside the Brumby Government's emergency guidelines.
Witnesses said an off-duty MICA paramedic who came to his aid was refused an urgent request for an air ambulance because of Ambulance Victoria "protocol".
Instead, a MICA ambulance with more specialised equipment and expertise to treat the Rupertswood Football Club ruckman took at least 22 minutes to arrive after being sent 38km from Royal Melbourne Hospital to Sunbury, where he had collapsed at footy training. All non-MICA ambulances from the Sunbury station near the ground were out on non-urgent calls, so a vehicle had to be sent from Burnside.
Mr Buckman's mother, Sue, described him as a "loving son and brother who did everything to the best of his ability". "He had a huge, cheeky grin - a real glow about him," she said.
Mrs Buckman did not hold the ambulance service responsible for his death, saying her family was "extremely thankful" to everyone who fought to save his life. Ambulance Victoria regional services manager Tony Walker said five ambulances in the area were attending other emergencies.
"This did affect our response time, but we had the first ambulance there in 20 minutes and a MICA crew two minutes after that," Mr Walker said. "We also knew there was a doctor and off-duty MICA paramedic on scene who had commenced CPR on this patient. The helicopter was ... available, but it was decided it would be quicker to drive the patient as opposed to waiting for the helicopter."
But Ambulance Employees' Australia state secretary Steve McGhie queried why the off-duty paramedic was ignored. "There should have been a helicopter dispatched, they should have erred on the side of caution and reacted to how seriously that paramedic said the case was," he said.
Mr Buckman's heartbroken teammates observed a minute's silence before senior and reserves matches yesterday. President Rob Morrice said Mr Buckman had left the field, sat down, lost consciousness and didn't recover. He said: "We don't know what happened or what caused it.".
Paying for negligence: Public hospital birth bungles cost $115m in NSW alone
MEDICAL negligence that has left babies with brain damage and mothers permanently scarred has cost the State Government $115 million in compensation over the past five years.
When families pursue legal action against hospitals, it sometimes takes years, with the settlements often occurring out of court and normally undisclosed. But documents obtained through Freedom of Information reveal the extent of the claims over negligence involving birth.
In one tragic case, a woman died at Nepean Hospital after complications with a caesarean-section delivery. It is unclear how much her family received in compensation, but the Sydney West Area Health Service, which runs Nepean, had the largest medical negligence bills, totalling $34.5 million.
Some cases involved babies being born with cerebral palsy or starved of oxygen, doctors failing to diagnose abnormalities and injury caused to mothers.
In Hunter New England, a family received almost $8 million because doctors failed to properly diagnose abnormalities.
Bankstown Hospital has paid more than $13 million in compensation - the highest amount among hospitals in its area.
Obstetricians said they were unfairly targeted and not always to blame for negligence. "They are in the firing line because they have the insurance," Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver said. "Even when it may be a case of staffing shortages or even unrelated to the doctor's negligence, the doctor will be pursued."
The college wants a no-fault compensation fund that would allow families to be compensated but without the doctor having to admit fault if he was not to blame.
But lawyer Bill Madden, a medical negligence specialist, disagreed and said people were entitled to recoup as much of the cost as they could. "There's no doubt that errors happen in our hospital system. The days are long gone when the medical profession would say anything different," he said.
A NSW Health spokesman said the amount of money paid out was no indication of the number or seriousness of the events.
Another Rudd promise broken
A FURTHER blow has been dealt to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's credibility with revelations that a secret pact was made with then NSW Premier Morris Iemma.
The deal took place when Mr Rudd was Opposition leader and centered on going to war with the union movement after he was elected Prime Minister, in return for the State Government delaying critical reforms.
An explosive tell-all book by The Daily Telegraph's chief political reporter Simon Benson, reveals that Mr Rudd broke a critical promise to help Mr Iemma privatise the state's electricity industry in return for him delaying the project until after the 2007 election.
Those reforms would have helped pay for more than $20 billion worth of road and rail projects in Sydney.
Mr Iemma confirmed the secret meeting which occurred during the 2007 APEC summit. At the meeting, Mr Rudd pleaded with Mr Iemma to delay his plans to privatise the power industry over fears that a union backlash would torpedo his election campaign - a campaign fought largely over John Howard's industrial reforms.
"If you help me, I'll get elected and you will prosper. Work with me and, when the time comes, we can f*** them (the unions) together," Mr Rudd is revealed to have told Mr Iemma in a meeting attended by two other senior Labor staffers. "Sometimes we have to save the (union) movement from itself."
Less than a year later, having walked away from the commitment, Mr Rudd refused to step in to protect Labor MPs under threat from the unions opposing privatisation, when Mr Iemma called to ask for the favour to be returned.
"I'm asking you to support me on a matter of principle," Mr Iemma asked the PM in a telephone conversation on August 27, 2008. "It's a state issue, I can't get involved," Mr Rudd replied. A week later Mr Iemma was forced from office after his privatisation plans collapsed.
The revelations contained in Betrayal come at a time when Mr Rudd's popularity has plummeted to an all-time low - primarily because of a long list of broken promises and policy backflips.
Secretive Victoria police
They're getting worse instead of better -- but I guess they've got a lot to hide
VICTORIA'S police chief Simon Overland has been warned the reputation and independence of Victoria Police command is being compromised by a "partisan refusal" to release documents requested under freedom of information laws.
The warning is contained in a letter sent to the Chief Commissioner by opposition crime spokesman Andrew McIntosh over the weekend, which accuses Victoria Police of breaching the FOI Act and withholding information about secret deals struck with private companies.
Mr McIntosh accuses the police of taking "extraordinary and unprecedented measures during an election year to block and frustrate access" to information on law and order issues.
In December, Mr Overland publicly said he would do everything he could to release under FOI details of the arrangements between Victoria Police and private companies to pass on sensitive information about known protesters.
The comments followed revelations police had authorised the release of sensitive personal information about protesters to AquaSure, the company building Victoria's desalination plant.
Mr McIntosh said in his letter, seen by The Australian: "The ongoing refusal of Victoria Police to release material consistent with their obligations under the FOI Act is not only a breach of the legislation but inappropriate.
"The standing and reputation of Victoria Police command may be damaged by what could only be interpreted as a partisan refusal to release this information."
Mr McIntosh last night reiterated his concerns. "The sudden refusal by Victoria Police in an election year to release information that had previously been freely available can only be interpreted as a political decision."
The latest stoush between Victoria Police and the opposition comes after The Australian revealed last week that the police had issued a prohibitive $17,000 quote to Mr McIntosh for access to crime statistics, when similar requests had been granted free of charge in previous years.
And in a separate battle, Mr Overland has issued legal proceedings against Mr McIntosh in the Supreme Court to overturn a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that granted him access to the police rosters.
A police spokeswoman yesterday said the organisation "rejects wholeheartedly any notion that Victoria Police does not have operational independence. All FOI requests are treated equally and no consideration whatsoever is ever given to external political factors."
On December 11 last year, Mr Overland said he was "happy to make available" a list of agreements police had entered into with private companies.
But on legal advice, two hours later, he said information would only be made available after an FOI request.
Mr McIntosh submitted his FOI request on February 5.
The police FOI department initially told the opposition the material was "too voluminous", and Mr McIntosh then narrowed his request to seven 20-page documents that have still not been released.