Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parents to sue over boy's death in W.A. hospital

Male nurse thought he was God and was allowed to act that way -- probably in fear of accusations of "homophobia"

THE parents of a schoolboy who died hours after being sent home from hospital with Panadol plan to sue after a damning report found a doctor was only metres away, but was never called by an inexperienced nurse to treat their son.

Contrary to earlier statements by the Country Health Service in the aftermath of Andrew Allan's tragic death, there was a GP and more experienced nurse in the emergency department of Northam Hospital, 97km northeast of Perth when his frantic mother took him there for urgent medical help, reported Perthnow.

The Sunday Times has obtained the Health Department's damning review into the circumstances surrounding the death of the 16-year-old Northam High School student, including that he spent just 13 minutes in the hospital. "This has been a major failure of the system to allow one individual to fail a patient in this way," respected neurosurgeon Bryant Stokes wrote in the report commissioned by director-general for health Kim Snowball.

The male registered nurse at the centre of the controversy referred to as RN-A in the review has now been sacked "due to the serious nature of the matter being investigated and his failure to co-operate". His actions were described as "a severe and fatal aberration".

Mr Snowball said yesterday: "There was a doctor and a senior emergency nurse in the emergency department at the time who could and would have responded had they known Andrew was in attendance."

The review has called for sweeping changes to the way hospitals deal with patients, including a recommendation that CCTV cameras be installed in every emergency department in the state. Mr Snowball said guidelines to the WA triage system would be revised and reissued as a result of the findings.

A number of changes had already been made at Northam Hospital, apart from additional CCTV cameras that will be installed to monitor patients in the emergency department waiting room.

Mr Snowball admitted RN-A failed to recognise the severity of Andrew's symptoms and his condition. "The nurse was neither qualified nor tasked to act as a triage nurse and attended to Andrew outside the normal treatment area," he said.

The review shows that Andrew was only at the hospital for about 13 minutes and his assessment by RN-A lasted just seven minutes, without any physical examination.

Andrew's parents James and Kylie are now preparing to launch a lawsuit against the Department of Health for what Mr Allan yesterday said was "gross negligence".

The review found:

* RN-A acted independently of a more experienced nurse and doctor working in the emergency department at the time.

* A very high body temperature and its significance were not taken into account.

* Correct triage and assessment protocols were not followed by RN-A.

* RN-A did not create a medical record of Andrew's assessment until after he died.

* His record incorrectly stated the diagnosis took place at 18.00 a time a GP would not have been in the emergency department. The wrong date was scribbled out and overwritten with the correct day.

* No base line observations were recorded.

Andrew was taken to Northam Hospital on September 16 with a temperature of 40C. He was barely able to breathe or walk, his skin was mottled and he was sweating profusely.

Despite his condition, RN-A sent him home with junior-strength Panadol and a pamphlet on gastroenteritis. Mrs Allan found her son dead in his bed early the next morning.

The review found that RN-A did not consult the doctor and nurse over his waiting assessment of Andrew. "The tragedy of it all was that there was a doctor in the emergency department the whole time and an experienced registered nurse was also present in the ED at the time of Andrew's presentation," Prof Stokes said in his report. "RN-A did not discuss Andrew's case with either the nurse or the doctor."

Prof Stokes suggested Andrew was suffering with flu and septicaemia when he presented for emergency treatment because of the "high body temperature and what was most likely peripheral circulatory failure". An autopsy report shows he had swine flu and staphylococcal pneumonia.

The WA Country Health Service previously said a doctor had been on call, but was not on site when Andrew and his mother sought urgent medical attention. A week later it stated one had been available at an adjacent medical practice in complete contrast to the report findings. In fact, the doctor was in an adjacent emergency department estimated by Mrs Allan to be less than 5m from the waiting room when Andrew was examined.

The review catalogues CCTV footage that shows just how sick the teenager was as he "staggered" into the hospital entrance and collapsed on a couch.

The findings come after The Sunday Times revealed the scandal in September.

The investigation shows that RN-A was registered with the Nurses Board of WA in 2008 and only had two years nursing experience in clinical units at a metropolitan hospital.

The review found that RN-A could not explain his management of Andrew when quizzed by the hospital's acting operations manager. "The only thing RN-A stated was that he thought the patient had the same thing (illness) he (the nurse) had had the week before, just a virus-like illness that RN-A recovered from," the report said. Since then he has refused repeated requests to co-operate or give his account of events to the health department.

Andrew's death is the subject of a coronial inquiry, which involves an investigation by WA Police. The coroner can compel RN-A to provide a statement or attend the inquest. The review, released to Mr and Mrs Allan this week, will be made available to the coroner and the Nurses and Midwives Board to assist their inquiries.


More Greenie Waste

State Government drops ZeroGen project after taxpayers pump $150 million into the plan

QUEENSLAND'S plan to become a world leader in clean coal is in disarray, with the state abandoning its ZeroGen project after taxpayers pumped $150 million into the initiative.

In a major blow to the state's carbon reduction strategy, the Government will give away the state-owned company ZeroGen and scrap its planned $4.3 billion clean coal power station in central Queensland.

As thousands of new jobs at the proposed plant go up in smoke, ownership of ZeroGen will be handed to an industry body, the Australian Coal Association, with state taxpayers' investment written off as a loss of almost $100 million.

The Federal Government yesterday attacked the decision after confirming it had also invested $47.5 million towards a pre-feasibility study for the now-aborted plant.

About $40 million of the state's $102.5 million investment in ZeroGen was spent after the Government was advised to withdraw from the project by a review which described the venture as "speculative".

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday confirmed the state would veto the 530MW power station, a project lauded as a "world-first" in cutting emissions. Ms Bligh insisted the ZeroGen investment had "yielded a wealth of information" and a further $50 million would remain in the Clean Coal Fund.

But Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said he was "disappointed" the state was walking away from the project. "The Queensland Government cannot have its cake and eat it too, profiting from exports while being unwilling to invest in the R&D necessary to reduce emissions," he said.

The plant, creating 2000 construction jobs, involved carbon-capture storage technology, taking CO2 emissions and burying them west of Rockhampton. A report by Auditor-General Glenn Poole in September issued a damning assessment of ZeroGen's future. Mr Poole wrote that its reliance on the state and ability to attract other funding was a concern beyond November 30 this year. "These conditions . . . indicate the existence of material uncertainty which may cast doubt about the company's ability to continue," he wrote.

The Department of Economic Development wrote down $96.3 million of equity in ZeroGen as a loss in its recent annual report.

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek yesterday demanded an inquiry into the project.


Newspapers should lead the country?

Joanne Nova

A REPLY to a critic of "The Australian's" coverage of the debate about climate change

DAVID McKnight's criticism of "The Australian" over climate change ("Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths", Inquirer, December 11) makes for a good case study of Australian universities' intellectual collapse.

Here's a University of NSW senior research fellow in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption for which he provides no evidence.

Most disturbingly - like a crack through the facade of Western intellectual vigour - he asserts that the role of a national newspaper is to "give leadership".

Bask for a moment in the inanity of this declaration that newspapers "are our leaders". Last time I looked at our ballot papers, none of the people running to lead our nation had a name such as The Sydney Morning Herald. Didn't he notice we live in a country that chooses its leaders through elections? The role of a newspaper is to report all the substantiated arguments and filter out the poorly reasoned ones, so readers can make up their own minds.

The point of a free press is surely for the press to be free to ask the most searching questions on any topic. Yet here is an authority on journalism attacking The Australian for printing views of scientists who have degrees of doubt about global warming and/or any human component in it.

And these scientists that McKnight wants to silence are not just the odd rare heretic.

The swelling ranks of sceptical scientists is now the largest whistle-blowing cohort in science ever seen. It includes some of the brightest: two with Nobel prizes in physics, four NASA astronauts, 9000 PhDs in science, and another 20,000 science graduates to cap it off. A recent US Senate minority report contained 1000 names of eminent scientists who are sceptical, and the term professor pops up more than 500 times in that list. These, McKnight, an arts PhD, calls deniers.

Just because thousands of scientists support the sceptical view doesn't prove they're right, but it proves their opinions are nothing like the tobacco sceptics campaign that McKnight compares them with in a transparent attempt to smear commentators with whom he disagrees.

Ponder the irony that McKnight, the journalism lecturer, is demanding The Australian adopt the policy espoused by the dominant paradigm, the establishment, and censor the views of independent whistleblowers. He thinks repeating government PR is journalism; the rest of us know it as propaganda.

McKnight doesn't name any scientific paper that any sceptic denies. Instead, he seems to use a pre-emptive technique designed to stop people even discussing the evidence about the climate.

McKnight's research starts with the assumption that a UN committee, which was funded to find a crisis, has really found one, and that it is above question. His investigation appears to amount to comparing articles in Fairfax versus Murdoch papers, as if the key to radiative transfer and cumulative atmospheric feedbacks lies in counting op-ed pieces. If he had made the most basic inquiry, McKnight might also have found out that the entire case for the man-made threat to the climate rests on just the word of 60 scientists who reviewed chapter nine of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report.

He'd also know that the people he calls deniers, far from being recipients of thousands of regular Exxon cheques, are mostly self-funded - many are retirees - and that Exxon's paltry $US23 million for 1990-2007 was outdone by more than 3000 to one by the US government alone, which paid $US79 billion to the climate industry during 1989-2009.

So "sharp" is McKnight's analysis that he calls the independent unfunded scientists "a global PR campaign originating from coal and oil companies", but all while he is oblivious to the real billion-dollar PR campaign that is waged from government departments, a UN agency, financial houses such as Deutsche Bank, the renewable energy industry, the nuclear industry and multi-hundred-million-dollar corporations such as the WWF.

The job of a newspaper, he indicates, is to decide which scientist is right about atmospheric physics. Is Phil Jones from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit right, or is Richard Lindzen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist, right? Add that to the duties for aspiring national editors. Tough job, eh?

McKnight's main error in his article - accepting an argument from authority - has been known in logic for 2000 years, and his entire synopsis is built around this fallacy.

Just suppose, hypothetically, that the government employed many scientists on one side of a theory and none from the other. McKnight's method of "knowing" who is right involves counting the institutions and authorities who support the grants - I mean, the theory. If science were exploited this way, McKnight would fall victim every time, blindly supporting the establishment.

That doesn't prove he's wrong but his analysis is confused at every level. He claims The Australian has zig-zagged from acceptance to denial but then later accuses The Australian's columnists of repeating "the dominant editorial line". But which editorial line would be dominant: the zig type or the zag?

In science, evidence is the only thing that counts, not opinion. McKnight, the follower of funded opinions, has the gall to question The Australian's standards of evidence but the only evidence he offers is a collection of opinions. McKnight paints himself as an authority on journalism yet fails to investigate his base assumption, research the targets of his scorn, or understand the role of the free press: he is his own best example of why argument from authority is a fallacy.

If our journalism lecturers are feeding students with ideas of leadership roles, how decrepit is the institution where students are not even taught that the highest aim of a journalist is to ask the most penetrating questions and leave no stone unturned, so the people they serve might have the best information?

Such is the modern delusion of the activist-journo: McKnight wants to be the leader, to dictate what the public can think and to direct where public spending goes, but he doesn't want to bother running for office or to expose his claim to open debate. He's nothing more than a totalitarian in disguise.


Pithouse the shithouse again

Sex attack victim tells of pain after magistrate Richard Pithouse denied victim's statement

A SEX assault victim distraught at her treatment by controversial magistrate Richard Pithouse has tried to take her life several times. "Emma" and her family have told how the torment of the crimes against her and the anguish of her heartfelt impact statement being thrown out of court sent her on a downward spiral, reported the Herald Sun.

A brave Emma has told the Sunday Herald Sun of her living hell at the hands of a sex offender and then a callous justice system that left her feeling trivialised.

The drastic situation has put further pressure on authorities to take action on Mr Pithouse, who has been the subject of several complaints by crime victims. Emma, 23, said Mr Pithouse's refusal to allow her to read the court a statement about her sex assault had turned her life upside down. She attempted suicide twice in a week this month - seven times in total since she was sexually assaulted.

"I hope he (Mr Pithouse) finally understands what he's doing to the victims and how he's making their struggles to survive a lot harder," she said.

Emma said she still hoped her voice would be heard. "My victim impact statement should be aired in court and I want the perpetrators to know what they have done to me and what I have to face every day. I want closure."

Emma's father said he had no doubt his daughter's torment was largely "as a result of not having a say in court". "I think they should - because he has done this in other cases as well - suspend him at the very least," he said. "If he was in any other job he would have got the sack because it's pure negligence."

Attorney-General Robert Clark agreed to look into the matter. "I will be very happy to meet with Emma and her family," he said.

Victims advocate Steve Medcraft called for action. "It's a blot on our justice system," he said.

Chief Magistrate Gray said: "I assure Emma and her family that the Magistrates' Court recognises the importance of victims' rights in the criminal justice system." [So what are you doing about it?]



Paul said...

I don't see any indication in the article that sexuality had anything to do with it, just an incompetent, inexperienced nurse with an over-inflated, grandiose sense of "professional" self importance. You get them both male and female, especially since they've been coming out of Universities with tertiary toilet paper and a misplaced sense of achievement. I know the queer cliche you're thinking of though, and he's very real. I actually spent a shift baiting one to try and make him accuse me of being a homophobe, just for a laugh. Some straight guys are equally a problem though because they seem to have an issue with having women in charge of them and will sometimes withold and control information and situations to demonstrate their "manliness". Ultimately the problem is badly trained people who think they have power that isn't theirs to take on. Nursing suffers a hidden culture of nurses with chips on their shoulders trying to impress everybody, and it can be very tribal (that's mostly the women, they can be absolutely scathing to each other and those they perceive as outside the group). This is especially prevalent in specialty areas such as Emergency Departments. Often areas function well when there is an even balance of males and females (regardless of sexualities). It becomes nicely self regulating, but there'll always be the odd rogue power tripper. They don't usually last, but as we see they can do some real damage while they are around.

Paul said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention another issue, that is the placement of inexperienced, underqualified nurses into specialty areas that can't (or won't) provide the support and education needed despite their insistence on doing this.