Monday, September 20, 2010

Whitewash! Health boss "not responsible"

If not he, who? He received complaints but did nothing significant about them -- while people died!

The former head of Queensland Health has been cleared of any wrong doing in his handling of complaints made about convicted killer surgeon Dr Jayant Patel. Dr Gerry Fitzgerald was the Chief Health Officer of Queensland Health in 2004-05 during Dr Patel's stay at Bundaberg Base Hospital.

Dr Fitzgerald, who is now Professor of Public Health at QUT, was a witness at the Morris Inquiry and the Davies Inquiry into the health system in 2005. As a result of findings in the Davies Inquiry he was referred to the Health Practitioners Tribunal to face five disclipinary charges. In short they involved allegations about the manner in which he handled complaints about Patel and surgery at the Bundaberg Hospital.

The HPT heard the charges in a closed court late last year. It was decided that to hold the hearing in an open court would prejudice the criminal trial of Dr Patel which was finalised in June this year.

Patel was convicted on three (three) counts of manslaughter and one of causing grievous bodily harm to patients at the Bundaberg Hospital between 2003 and 2005.

At the end of the HPT hearing the charges against Dr Fitzgerald were dismissed and costs ordered against the Medical Board. But all information was the subject of a suppression order.

In a written judgment which became available in Brisbane this morning, Judge Debbie Richards, sitting on the HPT, said as the trial of Dr Patel was finalised the suppression order on Dr Fitzgerald's case should be lifted.

She said two key witnesses believed Dr Fitzgerald's actions had not (NOT)fallen short of those required of a competent Chief Health Officer. [In other words, he was let off because his friends stood up for him, not because of any evidence] "In the view of the Tribunal there is no case for Dr Fitzgerald to answer in relation to these allegations," Judge Richards said.


Shonky breast tests

"Shonky" is a splendid Australian word that is not fully translatable but is apt in this case. "Fraudulent" goes nearest

CANCER specialists warn that private clinics offering unproven breast screening methods as a "safe" alternative to mammograms could be putting women's lives at risk.

Clinics selling botox, liposuction and spray tans are increasingly providing breast cancer screening that uses thermal imaging and "electrical impedance" technology. The methods are being marketed to women as young as 20, with claims they can detect cancer years earlier than mammograms.

Experts say the technologies are not backed by sufficient scientific evidence and those offering the tests often have little medical training. In many cases no doctor's referral is required and there are concerns that potentially life-threatening cancers could go undetected.

The education and research director with the Cancer Council WA, Terry Slevin, said commercially driven breast-check clinics were popping up around Australia.

"There's a prospect of women becoming very confused about what is or isn't proven, valid, scientifically rigorous breast cancer screening and I worry that that will lead to some women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a much more advanced, dangerous stage than might have otherwise been the case if they'd used more reliable technologies," Mr Slevin said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has already removed two screening devices from its list of registered medical goods, for making unsubstantiated claims. Another two companies using similar products are under investigation but cannot be named for legal reasons.

The Cancer Council and the Australian Medical Association say the industry's "aggressive" advertising is misleading and have written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asking them to also take action against clinics.

The letter includes complaints against one centre which, as well as offering spray tans, facials and laser therapy, provides "digital infrared thermal imaging", which it claimed could "improve early detection of breast disease by showing thermal abnormalities present in the body". Unlike a mammogram, in which the breast is compressed between two plates and an X-ray taken, a thermogram does not require contact with the imaging machine.

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration said mammography was the only breast examination technique that had been supported by objective, randomised clinical trials.


Australia's Leftist government lacks the will and the realism needed to stop an invasion of boat-borne illegals

IN three swift years, the Rudd-Gillard Labor Government has destroyed Australia’s border security and reduced the asylum seeker issue to a deadly farce. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was responsible for putting people smugglers back in business when he oversaw a comprehensive relaxation of border controls in 2008. The welcome sign for asylum seekers was well and truly written to order by current Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Now, the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Andrew Metcalfe, has been forced to write to his colleagues in other areas of the public service begging for assistance to help DIAC meet an “urgent and increasing demand for staff” to cope with the ever-increasing flow of new arrivals. They are, Metcalfe writes, rapidly “approaching the point where we will not be able to meet the demand”.

While Rudd - in his new incarnation as Foreign Minister - jets off to grandstand in New York with the global United Nations panjandrums whose company he prefers, negotiations with East Timor over a possible asylum processing centre have been left to the Government’s newly-minted Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. Only days into his new job, Bowen has essentially acknowledged that offshore processing is on the cards.

Though Labor would rather choke than pronounce the words “Pacific Solution”, the Papua New Guinea Government is already discussing the reopening of its Manus Island detention centre - oops, better call that an “asylum seeker processing centre” - and letters have been flying between Michael Sapan, Governor of Manus Province, and PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare. Sapan has been arguing, quite reasonably, that the Lobrum asylum processing centre could be reopened and that it would be an economic boon to a severely financially stressed area of the country. He evens dares to mention the Pacific Solution.

In the area of border protection, as in so many others, Labor has proven itself to be the party of gross mismanagement. As shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said yesterday, the level of seaborne arrivals currently in detention because of Labor’s discriminatory asylum freeze, and the extended taxpayer-funded appeals processes, have both contributed to a record detention population of more than 5000 people.

The numbers are staggering. In September, Australia’s detention population included 4527 people who had arrived illegally by boat. This compares to just four people in November, 2007. Under Labor, the number of those held in detention centres has increased by - wait for it - 113,075 per cent. So much for Rudd’s pre-election boast that he would turn them back.

My Daily Telegraph colleague Simon Benson revealed that of 6310 asylum seekers arriving in Australia in the past two years, only 75 have been rejected and returned to their country of origin.

The cost to the nation of Labor’s utterly shambolic approach to border security is now running into billions.

It’s also eating into other areas of critical importance to Australia. As Australia’s Chief of Defence Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said earlier this week, key defence assets are so overstretched dealing with the incessant influx of boat people that day-to-day operations are being compromised. The constant demand for air surveillance aircraft and patrol boats “means you sometimes can’t do other things”, Houston has admitted.

West Australia has become a dumping ground for asylum seekers. Labor has now admitted that it is expanding facilities at the remote Curtin air base to house boat people, and other possible sites at Laverton and Northam are being explored.

Local communities, such as the one at isolated Leonora, east of Perth, are finding that the boom which was promised as an accompaniment to its detention centre, has not eventuated. Instead of local stores reaping the benefits, supplies are shipped from major operators in Perth. Resentment is growing as residents see detainees access benefits which the locals cannot afford, including fresh produce.

Liberal MP Don Randall, whose Canning electorate is home to a high percentage of immigrants, said there was a perception that the newly-arrived refugees were receiving better access to education and health facilities than long-established migrants. “What do you tell a war widow who can’t get help with housing while recent arrivals are placed at the top of the list because of some obligation to a UN treaty?” he asked.

Meanwhile, at the modern District Court in the centre of Perth, four Indonesian crewmen who brought a boatload of Afghan asylum seekers to Ashmore Reef in June, 2009, are in the middle of trial which is set to run from two to three weeks.

Lorens Lapikana, Anto, Samsul Bahar, Anwah Abdullah, each with his own taxpayer-provided barrister and each with his own taxpayer-funded translator, have been appearing daily to listen as tapes and transcripts from their recorded interviews with DIAC officials on Christmas Island last July are played to a judge and jury. Two of the men had claimed to be aged under 15 but X-rays were taken of their wrists and a radiologist has testified that their probable ages were greater than 19, enabling them to be tried as adults. Though a number of Indonesians have been sent home without charge, probably to relieve overcrowding in the already stretched West Australian prison system, the jurors may decide to add these to the 48 currently serving sentences.

The cost of keeping them in jail serving sentences or among the 74 currently on remand, runs to millions each year.

Despite the claims that more illegal arrivals come to Australia by air, these crewmen are a reminder that boats have brought more people in than all the airlines in the past 11 months. According to Morrison, between July 1, 2009, and June 11, 2010, there were 5233 asylum seekers who arrived illegally by boat and just 541 asylum seekers who arrived illegally by plane (i.e. without visa documentation).

“This means almost 10 times as many illegal arrivals came by boat than by plane under Labor’s failed border protection policies,” he said. “The vast majority of people who arrive by plane and subsequently make an asylum claim do so with a valid visa and full documentation, enabling their claims to be properly tested. The Government’s figures show that 5105 people who arrived by plane during this same period and subsequently sought asylum, arrived with valid documentation.”

Labor is in denial on its failure on border protection, despite the overwhelming evidence of policy collapse. Its strategy was farcical and has proved to be, as forecast, unworkable. This is a crisis, a crisis of Labor’s own making. And it will not be solved while the Gillard Government continues to close its eyes to this fiasco.


Useless airport "security" again

And they only became "concerned" when the light of publicity shone upon it

An 80-year-old grandmother has shown up Melbourne airport's multi-million dollar security-screening operation after carrying a 33cm screwdriver onto a plane on two recent flights.

Mrs Bond, who lives in Adelaide, first carried the prohibited item in her hand-luggage when she flew to Melbourne last month to spend time with her son after the death of her husband. The tool was not detected at Adelaide, even though the luggage went through an X-ray machine. She then passed security at Melbourne airport unnoticed a week later.

Son Geoff Bond said his mother didn't realise the screwdriver was in the pocket of her carry-on luggage until she returned. "She was quite shocked and very concerned about the breach," Mr Bond said. "She was careful when she packed because she thought security was a lot tougher, but now she thinks the whole thing is just ridiculous."

Mrs Bond said she was "very surprised" security screening did not detect the screwdriver. "I just can't understand how it got through; perhaps someone wasn't being vigilant. I certainly never, ever meant to take a screwdriver across to Melbourne. "I'm well aware things like that don't go in cabin luggage. I don't even put a nail file in my handbag before flying."

Her son said it seemed as if people were being rushed through the security check point because of long queues. He called on Qantas to review safety and security procedures. "I'm concerned by this. More than anything I'm frustrated about the system," he said.

Mr Bond said he had made a complaint to Qantas but "they didn't seem to care".

Qantas spokesman Simon Rushton, however, said the airline was very concerned about the lapse. "Qantas screens millions of passengers and their carry-on bags each year (and) we take any incident where a prohibited item is not detected by security screening extremely seriously," he said.

Mr Rushton said that Qantas was responsible for security screening only at Melbourne airport. "We will investigate these claims and also report them to the Office of Transport Security." But he added: "Qantas meets and, in many cases, exceeds, all government mandated aviation security requirements."


Some hope for a constructive policy on Aboriginal settlements?

By Sara Hudson

A while ago, in an attempt to install some order into my chaotic household, I followed some advice I had read in a parenting book. I asked my children what they thought would be suitable punishments for breaking household rules.

I was surprised at their responses, which were far more punitive than the punishments I would have given. The reason that the parenting book gave for involving children in rule making was that it is easier for kids to obey rules they had some part in making. This seems to apply equally well to Indigenous communities.

Tuesday’s ABC 7.30 Report reported on an Indigenous community that has improved school attendance and showed that communities can come up with ideas a lot harsher than ones government could impose.

The Aboriginal community of Hermannsburg, 130 kms west of Alice Springs, decided to close the two shops in town if they found too many kids truanting. Since 2007, attendance rates have risen from 50% to more than 80%.

But imagine if the government had tried the same approach. The outrage from Aboriginal welfare (or rights) organisations along the lines of ‘government makes community go hungry’ or ‘draconian measure to improve school attendance’ would be deafening.

Community involvement in rule making helps give communities a sense of empowerment and ownership of the problem. Local initiatives also have a better chance of success because local people know what buttons to push to get people to change their behaviour.

Besides closing the two shops in town if school attendance is low, use of the school bus by the football team to travel to matches is conditional upon a particular level of attendance during that week.

Hemmansburg is not the only Aboriginal community coming up with its own solutions to problems.

In Fitzroy Crossing, two local women introduced alcohol restrictions that are, in many cases, more restrictive than those introduced under the Northern Territory Intervention. Although they received some local opposition, there was not the public outcry by activists and do-gooders there was towards the Intervention.

Rather than trying to bring about reform through a centralised bureaucratic process, government should listen to and involve local people from Aboriginal communities with good ideas about how to improve things. As the examples above illustrate, their suggestions could be harsher and more effective than measures introduced any other way.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 17 September. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

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