Thursday, October 21, 2010

Public hospital poisons tot with an overdose of morphine -- but not even an apology forthcoming

Lies and coverups instead. Ain't government medicine grand?

Luckily for Owen, he will never remember his near-death experience at Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital. But for his mother Rebecca Hughes it was a harrowing time she can never forget, one which has only been compounded by the reaction and inaction of health authorities.

Recovering from an operation late last year, two-year-old Owen was given an overdose of morphine so toxic that it would have been lethal for almost any other child his age. Only his well-worn experience with such drugs from repeated hospital procedures probably saved him.

However, Ms Hughes's horror at her son's treatment was made worse when a senior hospital official compared the overdose to a worker leaving their mobile phone at home. Since then she has battled hospital administrators and investigating authorities in an attempt to get answers and an apology.

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how they have handled it," Ms Hughes told The Courier-Mail yesterday. "There are no other words for it but disgusting."

The incident occurred in November when Owen, 18 months old at the time, was recovering in the RCH's intensive care unit from another operation. He was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, a condition that effectively allows the contents of his abdomen to move into the chest cavity.

A nurse, believed to have been a recent graduate, administered a morphine drip but it wasn't until almost eight hours later that it was discovered the dose pumping through Owen's small frame was four times that required.

Owen turned blue and stopped breathing before the potentially lethal dose of the drug was discovered. He spent a week on life support. "The only reason Owen survived is because he has a high tolerance for narcotics because of all his previous surgery," Ms Hughes said.

"If that was any other kid he wouldn't have survived, and they have admitted to that in writing." However, further admissions from the hospital have been hard to come by, or non-existent.

In a meeting with senior hospital staff shortly after the incident, RCH's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit head Tony Slater attempted to dismiss Owen's brush with death. "He said: 'It is like this Rebecca, when I leave for work in the morning I have to remember to bring my mobile phone but sometimes I forget because I am human'," Ms Hughes said. "At that stage I got up and walked out, I was disgusted."

A report on Owen's treatment was subsequently undertaken but in another meeting with hospital authorities, Ms Hughes said they admitted it was flawed. The report claimed Owen was given extra morphine because he was at risk of waking and attempting to remove his intubation tube. He did not have a tube in at the time.

Only this month Dr Slater wrote to Ms Hughes apologising for his mobile phone gaffe. But attempts to get investigating authorities, including Queensland's Health Quality Complaints Commission and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, to seek answers to her son's overdose have failed. But after going public with her case on ABC Radio yesterday, Ms Hughes received an email from AHPRA promising to investigate.

Health Minister Paul Lucas has also committed to look into Owen's treatment and apologised on behalf of Queensland Health and clinical staff. "I have indicated that I am happy to meet with her to hear her story in person and the CEO of the Children's Health Service is also available to discuss clinical issues with her."


Note that it was a graduate nurse involved. They have only a fraction of the experience and on-job training that nurses had under the old in-house system. Credentialism very nearly killed this time

Nurse tells of threats, cover-ups in Queensland public hospital emergency department

A LOGAN Hospital emergency department nurse has spoken out about the lack of patient care and staff treatment at the hospital.

In an article in The Albert & Logan News the nurse, who did not wish to be named, was working the same day Springwood mother Renee Jack was left in the Emergency Department waiting room for more than nine hours without pain medication or treatment while suffering a miscarriage.

She said the department conditions that day (Tuesday, September 28) were horrendous. "It was one of the busiest shifts I had ever worked in ED," she said. "The waiting room was absolutely horrendous. I think the reason people were standing is because a lot of them should have been in ED beds, but all the beds were taken up."

She said she could not understand why Mrs Jack had not been administered pain relief or at least given a heat pack as all nurses are authorised to do. "It's just diabolical what happens with patient care and the way staff are treated. If you speak out, you are known as a trouble maker," she said.

"We have so many stories it would curl your hair," she said. "Problems like losing patient information and making mistakes all get swept under the carpet. It's totally awful. "If you talk about it, you get threats made, so you keep your mouth shut because you have families to feed and just get on with it," she said.

Dr Michael Daly, the Acting Executive Director of Logan-Beaudesert Hospitals said in a statement that communication problems had led to complaints and patient harm, but denied any cover-up about patient care or staff conditions. "The Logan Hospital Emergency Department (ED) is the third busiest ED in the state and all staff perform their duties to a very high standard while working in an extremely demanding environment," he said. "At no stage are mistakes or errors relating to patient care or staff conditions covered up, that we are aware of.

"We acknowledge there will always be staffing issues in a workforce the size of Logan Hospital and the Logan-Beaudesert Executive's doors are always open to staff." [But what happens when they walk through that door?]


Red faces all round as Australian airports ask visitors to declare pornography

A policy which means visitors to Australia have to declare any porn at the airport gates is causing embarrassment. The policy, thought to have been implemented to keep the Christian population happy, features landing cards which demand to know if tourists or travelers are carrying any porn on their computer, camera or phone. Any undeclared images or film could result in on-the-spot fines or even deportation, reported.

According to Robbie Swan of the Australian Sex Party, one case involved a couple on their honeymoon, who declared nude pictures of themselves on their iPhone. The pair were left embarrassed after they were asked to display the photos in an immigration queue.

Now Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor has asked Customs and Border Protection to change the wording of the declaration cards.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The previous card stated that travelers needed to disclose any “pornography” they were carrying.’ It is believed the cards will now ask if anyone is carrying any ‘illegal’ pornography.

According to Australian law, illegal pornography includes images of children and material depicting bestiality, explicit sexual violence, degradation and non-consensual sex.


Another "child protection" failure

Ward of the State prostituted

A plea for donations to help a 12-year-old girl who was prostituted while a ward of the state has received worldwide attention. Hobart lawyer Roland Browne launched the appeal yesterday so the now 13-year-old can sue the Tasmanian government.

The girl's mother and mother's partner, Gary John Devine, sold her for sex in Hobart to more than 100 men last year when she was subject to a care and protection order, making the state her guardian. Mr Browne said the girl intended to sue the state and others, including the Human Services Department secretary, for failure of care.

Tasmanian education minister Lin Thorp has already admitted the state's protection system had failed the girl.

But the case has stalled because the girl cannot afford the psychiatric and medical reports needed to prove the extent of her suffering.

Mr Browne said it could cost up to $10,000 for the expert examinations. After just one day, Mr Browne said the public appeal had received a "fantastic and wonderful response". "We've had a large number of phone calls and emails from around Australia and there's potentially one donation from overseas," Mr Browne said. "There's a couple of people who have made very big donations and one person is going to donate a percentage of all tickets sold at their musical performance over the weekend." Any excess would be secured in a trust fund for the girl, Mr Browne said.

In his report into the case - which outlined the government had systematically failed the child - outgoing Children's Commissioner Paul Mason suggested the girl wait until she was 18 before launching legal action. Yesterday, Mr Browne, who is working pro-bono, said it was an absurd idea.


Another "Green jobs" bungle hurts those who took a Green/Left government at its word

A BRISBANE war veteran has been forced to sell his service medals after almost losing his livelihood in the Federal Government's bungled Green Loans Program.

Robert Rice, who served in Afghanistan and Bougainville, received his Green Loans assessors' accreditation two days before the scheme was radically altered before finally being axed.

"The Government was crapping on about how we've got to get it sorted out, so I basically waited like all the other assessors and later on they came back and said all the Green Loans (were) gone," he told The Courier-Mail.

Mr Rice, 44, said the debacle cost him the $3000 training fee and an estimated $45,000 in lost wages because he rejected other work in anticipation of the scheme taking off. He sold his service medals to help recover some of his losses. "It was really tough," Mr Rice said.

The troubled $174.4 million rollout was shut down in July but no compensation has been provided for the thousands of assessors left out of pocket. "The way the Government handled it was absolutely disgraceful," Mr Rice said.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt has written to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet seeking "justice" for Mr Rice, saying he was a "casualty of Labor's incompetence".

"He's been forced into a fire-sale of his service medals after the Government's bungling of the Green Loans scheme," he said. "In the very week Parliament is debating the importance of the work of our soldiers in Afghanistan, the treatment of Mr Rice is just inexcusable."

The Auditor-General last month found "significant failings" in the scheme, set up to provide free energy assessments, and loans to encourage homeowners to install energy-efficient products. A Senate inquiry into the scheme is due to report next week.



Three articles below

The Gillard administration is rolling back the reforms of previous Labor governments in pursuit of its obsession with fibre

Henry Ergas

YESTERDAY, the Gillard government became the first government in decades to seek to exempt a significant industry from the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

The industry is telecommunications; the exemption is for the agreements between NBN Co, Telstra and potentially other industry players. The National Broadband Network, we were told, was needed to save competition; clearly, so as to save competition, the government has decided it must be destroyed.

That it has come to this is readily understood. The NBN was never viable without Telstra's agreement. But the agreement that was struck is profoundly anti-competitive. Under that agreement, Telstra would not only sell its customers to NBN Co: it would also scrap its hybrid fibre coax network, which would otherwise have many years life ahead of it.

As the chief executive of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, recognised in giving evidence to a Senate committee, HFC networks are fully capable of competing with the fibre-optic network NBN Co proposes to deploy. Indeed, in countries as diverse as the US, Canada, Britain, France and Switzerland, it is HFC networks that have set the pace in ensuring consumers benefit from ever higher speeds at ever lower prices.

To scrap so valuable an asset, Telstra obviously requires compensation. And that compensation will be provided with taxpayers picking up the tab. Taxpayers, in other words, are being forced to pay to destroy existing, perfectly serviceable, capital and drastically limit the choices consumers are free to make. This is unprecedented in Australian economic history.

But it gets worse. For it has now been disclosed (not by NBN Co or the government, which are refusing to disclose information, but by Telstra) that the agreement also hobbles wireless competition, including by prohibiting Telstra from encouraging customers who might move to NBN Co to choose high-speed wireless services instead.

Yet both Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy and Quigley have claimed time and again that wireless is not a serious rival to the NBN. If so, why prevent it from competing as best it can? And how can it possibly be justified for the government to deprive consumers of options that are available to them, on an unimpeded basis, in virtually every country worldwide?

Those questions have not been answered. But without the exemption the government is proposing, they would have to be. This is because the act does not prohibit agreements (such as this one) that are likely to substantially reduce competition. Rather, it requires that they be authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

That authorisation can be obtained only if the parties demonstrate that the public benefits from the agreement outweigh its competitive harm. Moreover, the parties need to make their case in a public, transparent process, where their claims are subject to rebuttal and, crucially, where the outcome can be appealed to an independent tribunal. In contrast, under the government's legislation, the minister can effectively direct the ACCC to approve the agreement.

It follows that the exemption the government is seeking is not needed for the agreement to proceed. Rather, it is needed for the government to escape the process that would test, openly and subject to tribunal review, the public benefits the NBN is claimed to bring. The exemption has, in other words, one aim and one aim only: to avoid public scrutiny.

Ensuring that scrutiny applies every bit as much to proposals coming from governments as to those coming from the private sector was at the heart of the 1993 Hilmer report. The subsequent reforms, initiated by the Keating government under the rubric of national competition policy, set a crucial precedent: that the commonwealth government would scrupulously respect the disciplines it wanted the states and territories to accept. Plainly, if the commonwealth exempted itself, it would be only a matter of time before other jurisdictions followed; equally plainly, the result would be a return to the pervasive inefficiencies that for decades plagued our economy.

That is the precedent the government is trashing. There is no parallel to this internationally. Rather, broadband programs in the US, Canada and Europe are required to meet the full requirements of competition laws no less stringent than those in force here.

But it doesn't end there. The government has also moved to ensure the NBN will not be subject to scrutiny by the parliamentary standing committee on public works, which would otherwise review the project's progress.

So much for full disclosure. And so much, too, for the parallels to the Snowy scheme, which the Chifley government ensured was subject to extensive and effective parliamentary scrutiny, including by that very standing committee, both before it proceeded and throughout its implementation. Plainly, this is one area on which Julia Gillard does not want the light on the hill to shine.

Here, too, the government is destroying an important precedent. The requirement that significant government projects be subject to ongoing control by a parliamentary standing committee on public works goes back to the great reforms Henry Parkes introduced into the governance of NSW in 1888. In the previous decade, easy access to foreign loans had led to the abandonment of the longstanding criterion that public works be of "manifest utility". The result was pervasive waste and pork-barrelling. Parkes sought to bring a return to effective fiscal disciplines, not least through the glare of publicity.

These are precedents that are easily discarded but only painfully retrieved. That the government places great importance on the NBN is obvious. But that cannot justify undermining the immense effort successive governments have had to put into improving public decision-making. That the independents and Greens care little for rigour in public expenditure is disappointing but not surprising. That Labor, which did so much to put that framework in place, should be willing to squander years of hard work is tragic.

"Transparency and competitive neutrality, ensured by a regime of competition and consumer-protection law, are essential", Kevin Rudd wrote last year in his essay in The Monthly. Delivering on these, in his words, was integral to "social democracy's continuing philosophical claim to political legitimacy". That claim is now being tested. So far, it doesn't stack up.


Minister threatens to use law to force people onto fibre if states revolt

There is a very high likelihood that such an attempt would fail under Section 92 of the constitution

Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy says he will wield federal law as a weapon to force people on to the national broadband network (NBN) if the states and territories don't make connections mandatory.

Some consumers are opposed to the NBN because they fear the costs of their phone lines and broadband will increase.

Because of misreporting in the media, some also fear they will lose their fixed-line phone services, according to Conroy. Others are opposed to the $43 billion cost of building the network, of which up to $27 billion will be footed by taxpayers.

Conroy has said that the current copper service will be turned off as each home and business is connected to the NBN. He has reassured consumers that they will not be worse off by connecting to the NBN. But he said that, if they do not switch, then they will not have a phone line or access to ADSL broadband.

The NBN is being rolled out in Tasmania first. Connecting to the network there is optional and free initially. It is expected that there will be no cost to connect to the NBN initially when it is rolled out nationally.

But Senator Conroy has reiterated the government's intention to make it compulsory to connect to the NBN as it is being rolled out. "We are working our way through the issues with the states and ... we ultimately would consider, if we can't reach settlement, mandating it through the Federal Parliament. But we prefer to be engaged with the states," Senator Conroy said, speaking to this website at Parliament House yesterday.

He added that the federal government had not "exhausted those conversations yet". He also said that the matter of a connection being mandated was "not a new issue".

"[We've been] having a conversation with the states for over 12 months on this very issue," he said. "This is not a new issue. Malcolm Turnbull might have discovered it recently but it has actually been on the agenda. And we've actually been saying for quite some considerable time: as we disconnect the copper we'll be connecting the fibre."

Last Friday, this website reported that it would cost up to $300 to connect to the NBN if a house or business did not consent to connecting to it as it was rolled out initially. Connecting to the NBN is optional and free while it is being rolled out now in Tasmania. It is unclear if a cost will be involved in the initial roll-out in other states and territories.

Conroy confirmed yesterday that a cost would be involved later if one did not consent to connect to the network initially. "If it remains optional and people ... sell the house and someone else moves in, then it's like any other business where they say 'Hey, come and connect me to this' - then there's a connection fee to get it connected," he said.

But if the network were to be mandatory to connect to then there would be no charge at a later date. "The question of what happens if someone decides not to take it up now and then we come back to do them and it becomes mandated then I don't believe there would be a charge," he said. "But the key is to get it attached to the side of the house so the costs are reduced for everybody involved."

Speaking to the ABC's Lateline program last night Conroy said: "There's this furphy that Malcolm Turnbull and others have been spreading recently that [when the NBN is rolled out] people are going lose their fixed line, [that] they're ... not [going to] be able to make a phone call. "[But] it's as complicated as you take the little jack at the end of the cord out of one hole and you plug it in to a different hole and you keep making your phone calls."

He believed that if consumers only wanted a phone line, the costs on the NBN would be the same as they were on the current copper network, although he could not give a guarantee.

"Well the final retail prices that are being offered are ultimately the retail service providers'. But the wholesale prices that are being negotiated with Telstra and are going to become part of the business case ... will be available in a few short weeks."

He said there should be no increase in price to a person "who's sitting there, they don't have broadband, all they want to do is pick up the phone and make a phone call. So there should be no change in their circumstances."

Asked by Lateline presenter Tony Jones if he could guarantee that, Conroy said: "Well I believe that the pricing which we'll see in a few weeks will demonstrate that that is absolutely going to be the case."

Jones also raised this website's report that it would cost up to $300 to connect if one did not connect initially. Jones said to Conroy: "You might think your old fixed-line telephone is good enough and you don't think you want an NBN computer access." Senator Conroy said "some" had suggested that it could be $300, "but that has not been a final decision made".

"Now, in the case of where it becomes mandatory to make your phone call on the fibre because the copper's been disconnected, I can't imagine there's a case where you could say you should have to pay now to come and make the connection. The purpose of the roll-out is to ensure that people, if they have to make a phone call and it's only got the fibre available, I can't imagine there is any case to be made for there being that charge."

State governments will have to change trespass or property laws to ensure households are not left without fixed telephone connections, following the Tasmanian government's move to introduce legislation for property owners to opt out of the government's fibre network.

NSW and Victoria have said they have no plans to introduce opt-out laws. "NSW currently has no plans to legislate an opt-out model for the NBN and will determine a final position following discussions with other jurisdictions," said a spokesman for the NSW Commerce Minister, Paul Lynch.


Fibre laws may not pass the Senate

The government has launched its second attempt to pass legislation crucial to the construction of the national broadband network, through a bill it says will lead to lower prices and better service for consumers.

But while the opposition has revealed it is edging towards a policy that could see it support some aspects of the plan, the bill is expected to face delays in a Senate controlled by minor parties.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, yesterday reintroduced legislation designed to separate Telstra into wholesale and retail arms, paving the way for the creation of the broadband network.
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Breaking up the telco giant would lead to better service and more competitive prices, especially in country areas where customers have limited choice, the government says.

The government could face an uphill battle in securing support for the bill, after the opposition's communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, said the Coalition was opposed to the manner in which the government had pressured Telstra to agree to ''structural separation''.

Despite this, Mr Turnbull said there were good reasons for separating Telstra's retail and wholesale businesses, a move likely to indicate a looming change of Coalition policy on the national broadband network.

''We believe that there are strong arguments for separating the network business from the retail business but it should not be achieved by holding a gun to Telstra's head,'' Mr Turnbull said.

The bill, first introduced in September last year, is necessary for the broadband network because it allows NBN Co, owned by the government, access to Telstra's pits and ducts, saving construction costs.

The Broadband Minister, Stephen Conroy, has said the deal with Telstra could cut the network's cost by between $4 billion and $6 billion. Telstra - which this year agreed to help the government build the network in exchange for $11 billion - yesterday also called for speedy passage of the bill.

Uncertainty over the government's plans briefly dragged its share price to a record low of $2.58. If the opposition does not back the legislation, the government will need to rely on support from the Family First senator, Steve Fielding.

Senator Fielding was previously undecided on the bill, and a spokesman said the senator would meet the government and opposition next week before making up his mind.

In arguing its case for the changes, the government claims the bill will also strengthen industry competition by breaking Telstra's dominance in the wholesale market.

Instead of the current arrangement under which Telstra charges its competitors for access to its national network, the government-owned NBN Co would act as a monopoly telecommunications provider, charging all retailers the same rate.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Children on ventilators will take unbelieveable doses of sedatives without problem. One, they are on a ventilator that does the breathing and Two, the brand-new body can metabolize at a truly astounding rate. If he wasn't on a ventilator though, that's asking for trouble. As to the issue of new graduates being stuck in specialist areas without advanced level training and qualification? Tell me about it! Queensland Health demands it. Grads are cheaper you see.