Sunday, August 15, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is feeling cynical about the latest political promise from the Labor party

Media mostly favour the Left, as usual, but voters seem to want Tony Abbott

AUSTRALIA'S Sunday newspapers have backed Julia Gillard to win the election, saying Labor deserves a second term.

But voters don't seem to agree, with the latest opinion poll suggesting Tony Abbott will win the 17 seats he needs for an election victory.

Although most of the sundays criticised Labor for its poor performance at state and federal level, they were willing to give Ms Gillard an opportunity to show what she could achieve as Prime Minister.

Suprisingly, the paper that has hit Labor the hardest, The Sunday Telegraph, praised Ms Gillard as someone who could make the "big calls" and would not be "cowed by the news polls".

Queensland has been urged to give Tony Abbott a chance, with the Sunday Mail saying the Government has squandered its goodwill and confidence.

However, a Galaxy Poll of 4000 voters in 20 marginal seats in five states has Mr Abbott's Coalition in front of Labor, 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent. The survey comes only a day after polls by Nielsen and Newspoll suggested Ms Gillard was within a whisker of winning power.

The Galaxy Poll, published in today's News Limited papers, predicts devastation for Labor in Queensland, where a potential swing of 5.4 per cent against the Government could cost it 10 seats.

In NSW, polling in Eden-Monaro, Gilmore, Macarthur and Macquarie found a swing of 2.4 per cent against the Government, while the coalition was likely to win all the seats polled, plus three others if the swing was statewide. The Coalition is also in front in Swan and Hasluck in Western Australia, The Sunday Telegraph reported. In the Prime Minister's home state of Victoria, the Galaxy Poll found a swing in Labor's favour of 1.6 per cent. But the average swing across the five mainland states is 1.7 per cent to the Coalition.

On the question of preferred prime minister, Mr Abbott has the most support in NSW and Queensland (37 and 38 per cent respectively), while Ms Gillard is most popular in South Australia on 54 per cent, followed by Victoria on 51 per cent.

The Greens' primary vote is 10.2 per cent, but 12 per cent in Victoria, the poll shows.

The papers will give Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott a much-needed boost as the campaign enters its final week. Although The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun make clear that Mr Abbott would not be a bad choice as prime minister, they believe he hasn't provided a clear and powerful vision of how he will govern.


Patients requiring urgent surgery waiting longer in Queensland government hospitals

THE number of Queensland public hospital patients waiting too long for urgent surgery has jumped 30 per cent in a year.

A damning Queensland Health public hospital performance report released yesterday reveals that 254 Category 1 patients – those who had a condition that could deteriorate quickly – had been waiting longer than clinically recommended on July 1, up from 190 at the same time last year.

The number of Category 2 patients waiting too long has jumped 40 per cent to 4983.

Health Minister Paul Lucas defended the report, saying the combined figures across all categories had dropped to record lows. He said the number of overdue Category 3 procedures – which should be treated within a year – decreased from 2407 to 137.

"Our target is to eliminate long waits and we don't want people waiting more than a year, " Mr Lucas said. "I would hope that (the number of Category 1 and 2 patients waiting) would go down. That's a matter for Queensland Health and our surgeons to work on. "But we've targeted Category 3s . . . (who) were like the forgotten people. We've gone out there and fixed them."

The report also revealed the median wait time across the board had increased from 28 to 30 days in the year to July 1 but remained below the national average of 24. More than 233,800 patients were admitted to public hospitals in the June quarter, a 4.8 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Mr Lucas said the Government would invest $484.5 million operational and $257.4 million capital funding over four years to support reform areas including emergency department access and elective surgery waiting lists.

The contribution is under the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle slammed the figures, saying patients were still waiting too long. "By Queensland Health's own definitions, a Category 1 patient waiting too long is likely to deteriorate and may become an emergency patient, while a Category 2 patient waiting too long is likely to suffer pain, dysfunction or disability," Mr McArdle said.

He welcomed the inroads in treating Category 3 patients but said they were only being made because patients were finding it difficult to actually join the list.


Thousands of patients face longer wait for critical scans after big Queensland public hospital cuts stuff

A BUREAUCRATIC bungle has left more than 1000 patients waiting for critical tests at Queensland's biggest public hospital after management ignored their own expert advice in favour of saving money.

The Sunday Mail can reveal a backlog of outstanding radiography scan bookings at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital has almost doubled in the past week because bureaucrats failed to heed their own recommendations to boost resources, and instead cut staff.

Only a day after Queensland Health claimed there was "nothing intrinsically wrong" with the Department of Medical Imaging, a scathing leaked review compiled last month by the section's top radiographer reveals an "embedded culture of disillusionment".

A booking graph reveals the backlog totalled 648 outstanding bookings for cancer sufferers, pregnant women and people with heart problems at the time schedulers were cut to two staff last weekend. But the backlog swelled by 10 per cent a day last week to more than 1000 late on Friday. There are usually only 20 to 30 people waiting for a booking.

The crisis comes as a series of departmental reviews, obtained by The Sunday Mail, shows Queensland Health has been attempting to cut the pay of the key schedulers.

The reviews culminated earlier this year with senior project officer Karyn Hicks recommending boosting the number of staff scheduling appointments from three bookers to four cutting their pay levels. "Increase A03 booking officers to 4 in place of current 3 A04 clinical assistants," her 2010 review found.

But radiography team leader Greg Edwards conducted his own review last month and attacked Ms Hicks' description of schedulers as "data entry" staff and demanded five bookers in total. "Problem-solving and decision-making are important scheduler skill-sets that must be attained over a period of time," he wrote. "The downgrading of schedulers from A04 to A03 does not in any way support these invaluable staff members.

"Morale, staff retention and current culture will stay at the same levels with expensive diagnostic equipment not being fully utilised."

But the department, run by director Peter Scally, cut the number of scheduling staff to two bookers last weekend.

Staff say patients recently diagnosed with cancer could require urgent follow-ups and pregnant women needed nuchal translucency scans between 11 and 13 weeks.

Metro North Health Service District chief executive Keith McNeil yesterday said claims of staff cuts were "false" because "a radiologist" had resigned and would be replaced. He did not comment on the scheduler cuts, which are confirmed in emails to management.

"The most recent Workplace Survey conducted this year showed significant improvements across all parameters, reflecting overall positive staff morale at RBWH," Prof McNeil said in a statement.


Bone test scanner sits idle in NSW hospital

A $100,000 scanner at one of the state's biggest hospitals is idle because there are not enough staff to operate it.

Patients needing the bone density scanner at Westmead Hospital have been told they face a 12-month wait for appointments because there are insufficient technicians on staff.

Those who need to be scanned within the next year will have to seek treatment at another hospital or pay up to $120 to have the test done privately.

Bone density scans, also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, use low-dose X-rays to measure bone loss. They can help doctors diagnose osteoporosis or assess a patient's risk of developing fractures.

When Janet Griffin, who suffers osteoporosis, contacted the hospital this week to make an appointment for her biennial scan, the delay came as a shock.

"This is inexcusable and an absolute disgrace," she said. "Again we, the tax-paying public, are being treated as inconsequential and inconvenient beings by the current government.

"This expensive equipment is now lying dormant for six days per week because there is only funding for staff to operate it one day per week."

Radiologists recommend bone mineral density be measured using the same scanner each time. A report published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine in 2004 said that attempting to determine change could be a problem when using different scanners.

A hospital spokeswoman said the scanner had never been used five days a week. She agreed it was not acceptable for patients to wait a year for appointments.

The waiting time would be reduced once new staff were recruited, but the hospital could not say when that would occur. She said since July 1 the Medicare rebate for bone density scans had increased, making the test cheaper for patients who had it done at private clinics.


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