Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Bureaucratic financial shenanigans behind Victorian ambulance disasters

With more reports of life-threatening delays emerging, the Herald Sun revealed that health chiefs actually called for cuts to Ambulance Victoria staff in November, because of the mounting debt. Documents show the state's top health chiefs could have put lives at risk by advising Ambulance Victoria to slash staff numbers.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews intervened in January to discuss the money black hole, but when Mr Brumby was asked today about any warnings he received about Ambulance Victoria's problems, he said he there were none provided. "Not to me, no," Mr Brumby said.

Mr Brumby said the government had doubled the number of paramedics and had promised another 400 since it came into government. "When we came to government the ambulance service in this state was in a disastrous state of affairs," Mr Brumby said. "There were 1260 ambulance paramedics. Now there are 2500. And we have got another 400 in the pipeline."

In a bid to cut the service's debts, the Health Department exposed Victorians to longer waits for ambulances and forced over-stretched paramedics to work extra shifts to cover shortages. The organisation's debts hit $44 million in April, according to board meeting minutes seen by the Herald Sun.

The call comes as ambulance waiting times blow out. Worst cases include:

LAST month a jockey, who almost died after a fall at Moonee Valley, waited nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance.

AFTER the first grand final, a man died after waiting three hours for an ambulance in Burwood East.

Opposition health spokesman David Davis said the financial mess risked lives. "The minutes show an organisation careering out of control under John Brumby, leading to cuts in critical services as costs were screwed down to cover Labor's mismanagement," he said. "How many Victorians have to die or suffer before John Brumby finally listens?"

The debt was partly due to the merger of regional and metro services, and also patients and hospitals not paying their bills.

MICA paramedics have also contacted the Herald Sun claiming senior management falsifies records and creates ghost crews to make it look as if more staff are on duty.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said yesterday Ambulance Victoria was confident it had the right resources. But minutes of a November 2009 board meeting say: "Recruitment has been delayed due to finance discussions with the Department of Health wherein they advise Ambulance Victoria to cut staff numbers rather than recruit." It is not known if Ambulance Victoria followed the advice.

Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said the memo showed the Government was more interested in money than lives.

The row comes ahead of a scathing Auditor-General's report into ambulance services to be released today.

The most recent Health Department annual report shows only 80 per cent of the most critical cases - worse than last year - were responded to within the benchmark of 15 minutes. The internal Ambulance Victoria documents also reveal the organisation wrote off more than $18 million in bad debts last year. They also show that Mr Andrews personally intervened in January to discuss the financial black hole.

The State Government yesterday referred the Herald Sun's questions to Ambulance Victoria. Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella yesterday admitted the deficit was a major problem in the 2009/10 financial year. But he said Ambulance Victoria had worked hard to have only a $2.9 million deficit without impacting on "service delivery".


The shambles that is Victoria's grandly-named Department of Human Services

Pretty much what you expect of a huge bureaucracy. No effective supervision of anything

VICTORIA'S government watchdog has called for the state's main juvenile justice centre to be closed down, citing “disgraceful conditions.

Ombudsman George Brouwer says in a report the facilities breach human rights and are safety risks.

His scathing report has found that six units at the state's Melbourne Youth Justice Centre are riddled with infectious diseases, overcrowding and assaults perpetrated by staff on inmates, and incited by staff.

Mr Brouwer concludes that the Department of Human Services is not fit to run the facilities and that they are such in a poor state they should be closed down and new facilities built.

“In my view, the design and location of the (youth justice precinct) is inappropriate for a custodial facility which house vulnerable children.

“The dirty, unhygienic and ill-maintained conditions reflect poorly on the management and staff,” he writes.

“It is clear from the unacceptable conditions that the department has failed to meet its statutory obligations under the act and human rights principles. In my view, this brings into question the capacity of the department to operate youth justice services.”

Mr Brouwer's investigation - sparked by a whistleblower - also found that 39 per cent of staff did not have working-with-children checks on their personnel files

His report uncovered concerns that overcrowding had become so bad that young people were in rooms in mattresses and no toilets, so were forced to use buckets.

The investigation alleged staff provide detainees with contraband, and that they incite fights among detainees, even allowing one detainee to be severely beaten by other inmates.

He also investigated reports staff stole and slept during shifts, assaulted detainees, falsified records and used excessive force.

The scathing report follows damning findings into other DHS-run facilities, including child protection and mental health.


More environmental lunacy

FIVE dead trees could cost the Gold Coast a $100 million development because they might be home to an owl and a sugar glider. In an evaluation of a proposed Upper Coomera project, council environmental bureaucrats ruled that the dead 'owl house' trees on the site could not be cut down.

The ruling effectively removes six lots worth a total of $1.2 million from the proposed multimillion-dollar Upper Coomera residential project, a move which developer Norm Rix says virtually makes his development financially unviable.

His development on the corner of Days and Old Coach roads was approved by the city planning committee yesterday, but with a condition he said he could not accept and which could lead to a legal battle involving ratepayers' money.

Mr Rix said he was willing to reduce a proposed eight-storey and another seven-storey tower to three as requested by council, but said giving up six lots worth a combined $1.2 million to protect five dead trees was 'too much'.

The council report stated the trees, classed as 'hollow bearing trees', might provide a home for native animals. It stated that owl pellets were discovered on the site, while a squirrel glider had been spotted 500m south of the trees in July.

The council environmental officers originally wanted 12 lots of land removed from the development to protect the trees, but were talked down to six by Mr Rix.

Mr Rix said he would still lose money on the development in its current form and would take the council to court over its decision. He said with the red tape developers had to battle through, it was no wonder construction jobs were moving up to Logan, Ipswich and Redlands.


Year's 100th boatful of illegals received by Australia

THE 100th boat of asylum seekers to reach Australia this year was intercepted off Christmas Island yesterday, carrying 71 asylum seekers.

The opposition said the government continued to founder on border protection, despite identifying it as a "key reason why Kevin Rudd was dumped". "Despite their failures, Labor continues to refuse to restore the immigration and border protection controls they abolished," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. "The consequence of Labor's border protection failures is a detention network in crisis and a budget out of control."

Almost 5000 people have sought asylum in Australia by boat this year and detention centres on the mainland and at Christmas Island have been expanded to cope. Detainees also face longer processing times, pushed out by the recent freeze, and incidents of self-harm are escalating.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will soon travel to East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia to discuss people smuggling and gather support for a regional processing centre.

"Rather than engaging in simplistic slogans and reverting to the Coalition's failed policies of the past, the Gillard government is focused on building lasting and long-term solutions to the problem of people smuggling with our regional partners and key international organisations," he said.

The last surge in boat arrivals was in 2001, when conflict overseas drove people to seek asylum in Australia, he said.


LOL! Plants boost grades

Plants in the classroom have been credited with helping Queensland school-children achieve huge improvement in their grades. New research to be presented to a “Plants at Work” conference in Brisbane this week shows plants have the power to boost student performance in maths and spelling by up to 14 per cent.

The conference will also hear how plants in hospitals are helping patients get out up to two days earlier. Other research includes a study showing indoor plants improve performance and productivity in adult workers with stress and negativity at work -- cut by up to 40 per cent for staff surrounded by plants.

The news of plants’ psychological benefits for workers comes as the State Government recently moved to remove plants from several of its department offices in Brisbane to save money.

“Our research has shown that plants can benefit body, mind and spirit," University of Technology Sydney adjunct professor Margaret Burchett said. Prof Burchett conducted a study in 15 Year 6 and 7 classrooms in three independent schools late last year.

More than 200 students were tested with standard maths and spelling exams before plant placements and retested after six weeks of plant presence or absence. “In two schools, there were 10 to 14 per cent improvements in scores in spelling and maths tests in those classes which had plants in their rooms,” she said.

Prof Burchett said some of the improvements could have come about because of plants’ ability to cut pollution. “International research has shown that plants can significantly improve indoor air quality in buildings with or without airconditioning by reducing levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds.”

Hire plants have been removed from offices of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation and the Department of Public Works as a cost-cutting measure this year.

DEEDl’s Michael Jones said they recognised the value of having plants in the workplace, “but we also need to exercise financial responsibility". “The cost of hiring and maintaining plants in departmental offices in Brisbane’s CBD was equivalent to 1.5 full- time staff members,” he said,

The report above by Suellen Hinde appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 October 2010


Karen Schmidt said...

Where can I get more information on the Plants at work conference you were quoting?

Ruby said...

Such idiotic lunacy from the dead wood that the Government provies well paying jobs to. The only way that children can improve their school work was by studying and hard work, plus good input by teachers.