Sunday, July 10, 2011

More health Fascism

Have they learnt nothing from America's experience of prohibition?

THE most powerful clinical body within the WA Health Department has called for an increase in the legal drinking age to 20 or 21.

The Clinical Senate of WA has presented a position statement to Health Minister Kim Hames urging the move as one way to combat rampant alcohol abuse and its impact on the health system and young lives. New figures show alcohol-related hospital admissions cost WA taxpayers $95 million a year.

The senate's call puts the influential group at direct odds with Dr Hames, who told The Sunday Times that he did not support lifting the age.

The senate comprises 75 elite health professionals, including Public Health executive director Tarun Weeramanthri, chief medical officer Simon Towler, Princess Margaret Hospital boss Robyn Lawrence and King Edward Memorial Hospital boss Amanda Frazer.

It has called also for an end to the practice of handing out alcoholic gifts at medical conferences and dinners.

The senate's chair Kim Gibson said evidence from the World Health Organisation and other eminent bodies had shown that raising the drinking age helped to reduce alcohol-related injuries. "The driving age and the drinking age are very close in WA," she said. "If you're able to separate them, you can have some impact on the road trauma figures."

She said also that 18-year-olds were too immature to drink. "One issue is the maturity of the brain and behaviours around risk," she said. "The younger population is into risk-taking and so if you wait for more maturity you're not matching the risk-taking with the alcohol consumption." [But they are old enough to risk their lives in the armed forces??]


School defends their use of the cane

A WA school, which still uses the cane, has defended the practice, claiming it teaches students right from wrong.

Nollamara Christian Academy is among three independent schools that have corporal punishment, which was banned in the state's public and Catholic schools in 1986.

Mt Helena's Bible Baptist Christian Academy and Bunbury's Grace Christian School are believed to be the other schools.

Despite opposing corporal punishment, Education Minister Liz Constable said she would not stop it. It was up to parents if they wanted to send children to "the very few schools" in WA that still used the cane.

Nollamara Christian Academy Pastor Roger Monasmith said a small paddle "like a ping-pong bat" was used as part of a disciplinary approach for the school's 18 students.

Pastor Monasmith, who has run the school with his wife for almost 29 years, said the cane was never used in anger and every parent had to sign an agreement about corporal punishment before enrolling their child.

He said four or five students had been punished so far this year to ensure they understood they had not only disobeyed school rules, but also God. "We always give them a warning before we use it and we'll give them one swat (on the behind) and then the next time if they do the same thing, they get two swats," he said.

"We try to help these kids as much as we can because there are two things that are very important for kids to learn responsibility and accountability."

He said students faced being caned for fighting, swearing, being disrespectful to teachers or repeatedly failing to complete their work "four or five days in a row".

His comments came as debate about the use of the cane raged around the country. Child-welfare campaigner Alan Corbett has called for it to be banned, warning that research showed corporal punishment could cause long-term harm.

But Pastor Monasmith said people who wanted the cane to be banned had a misguided view that "if you spank their behinds you will warp their character". "It won't warp their character at all - unless you do it wrong," he said. "It can only be done with a balance.

"Like I say, if it doesn't work, we try to use a different way ... they will get either some detention or they have to stay in class and finish their work, just different things we try to help them realise that this isn't the right thing to do."

Pastor Monasmith said the school's academic results spoke for themselves. Students were regularly commended by the community for being "kind and polite".

He said every parent must sign an agreement allowing use of the cane. "This is the way we do it," he said. "It sounds like a dictatorship, but it's not. If you don't sign the agreement to give them the cane, then we cannot let them come in."

The Department of Education Services regulates the use of the cane in non-government schools in WA. Such schools must notify parents prior to enrolment and keep records of all corporal punishment administered, a spokesman said.

Opposition education spokesman Ben Wyatt said he believed the cane was "past its use-by-date", but parents should have the choice.

Mt Helena Christian Academy principal Kyran Sharrin did not want to discuss the school's disciplinary methods because "it's a bit too controversial".


Australia has just experienced the coldest Autumn since at least 1950

The BOM says so

Australia has experienced its coldest autumn since at least 1950 for mean temperatures (average of maximum and minimum temperatures across the nation) with an Australian average of 20.9ºC. This was 1.15ºC below the historical average and 0.2ºC below the previous coolest autumn in 1960. It was also the coldest autumn since at least 1950 for Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Large parts of the country recorded temperatures more than 2ºC below the autumn average (figure 1) with about half the country ranking in the coldest 10% of years (figure 2).

The season was marked by consistent below-normal temperatures in most areas, with only a few individual areas recording their coldest autumn on record. These areas were in northern and central Australia including the east Kimberley, the central Northern Territory and small parts of northern Queensland.

The cool conditions experienced in autumn 2011 are largely a result of the strong 2010/11 La Niña event which brought heavy rainfall and cool daytime temperatures to Australia, before decaying in late autumn.

Of particular significance was March 2011 – Australia’s coldest and wettest March on record for maximum temperatures and third wettest month on record (for any calendar month).

Historically La Niña events result in above average rainfall and cooler than average daytime temperatures over large parts of Australia with the historically cold autumns of 1917, 1949, 1955, 2000 and 2011 all occurring at the end of, or during, a La Niña event.



They've had since 1944 to get their act together but no sign of it yet. Three reports below

Record-keeping shambles at Queensland Health

THE health department that claims it is the most accountable in the nation is making no moves to keep improved records on patient deaths. Queensland Health this week admitted there was no uniformity in its hospital data after The Courier-Mail revealed overcrowding, staffing and workloads were costing lives.

The department fought for two years to stop the relevant documents being released under Right to Information laws. What was eventually provided related to only three major hospitals - Royal Brisbane, Nambour and Townsville - and were inconsistent.

Despite concerns that ongoing inconsistencies are compromising patient care, QH says all reporting systems meet standards set by internal policy and independent authorities.

Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said proper planning for the future required streamlined recording of critical data. "You need consistency to plan, to fund and to grow a system to cater for future needs," he said. "If you don't have the same data coming in from the various regions, how can you put in place a plan or a scheme that is going to grow with the needs of the state. "I'm shocked that the Government hasn't got that in place."

The Courier-Mail applied for details of patient deaths at Royal Brisbane, Nambour, Townsville and Gold Coast hospitals under Right to Information laws, but in the latter case was denied access on the basis that any documents failed to fall within the scope.

Gold Coast Health Service District acting chief executive Professor Ged Williams said the district had a "robust patient death review procedure in place", which was being continually reviewed, despite Queensland Health's denial that it existed in response to the RTI application.

He then appeared to contradict himself. "The specific documents requested as part of The Courier-Mail's RTI have not existed under the Gold Coast Hospital's formal process for investigating these matters," he said in a statement.

"All hospitals use different processes to meet their needs, however all are required to provide standard information, contained in our incident reporting system."

"This allows for statewide reporting, such as that found on our hospital performance website."


Qld. Premier calls halt to Queensland Health efforts to recover overpayments in payroll debacle

ANNA Bligh has been forced to intervene in the deepening payroll debacle, halting Queensland Health attempts to claw back overpayments from furious staff.

Only days after her Health Minister and deputy defended the recovery policy during her overseas trade mission, the Premier last night trashed the decision to begin hunting overpayments while so many staff still remained underpaid.

Ms Bligh revealed she had ordered a redesign of the process upon her return from the US and Asia last week after the latest chapter in the debacle spiralled out of control in her absence.

A deal struck with unions last night will now impose a temporary moratorium on overpayment recovery and instead focus on reimbursing short-changed public servants first.

The Government and union leaders also agreed in principle to appoint an external workplace ombudsman and provide more support for line managers and better recognition of payroll staff. New pay cycle arrangements will also be trialled at a number of sites.

The moves come after The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday that two emergency nurses had launched a grassroots campaign to win a moratorium as the department seeks to recover $62 million in over- payments.

Ms Bligh last night said the new plans were about giving doctors, nurses and other health staff confidence in their payroll system. "In my view the approach adopted by Queensland Health in seeking to recover overpayments from staff while it was clear that many employees were still owed entitlements was unacceptable," Ms Bligh said. "While I acknowledge the approach was adopted with a view to providing certainty to staff as the end of financial year approached, it was clearly not good enough."

Some staff have been overpaid tens of thousands of dollars.

The agreement, yet to be put to union members, would also ensure future pay adjustments were made regularly so staff received entitlements in a timely manner. Health Minister Geoff Wilson held a round of discussions last week and agreement was reached yesterday afternoon.


QLD "ramping" crisis worsens

And dodgy statistics can't hide it from the ambulance officers who have to deal with it regularly. On one recent occasion, every ambulance in town was ramped (waiting to offload) outside Cairns Base Hospital

Patients often have to wait several hours inside an ambulance before being admitted into Queensland's public hospitals, a union says. United Voice, Queensland's ambulance union, says it is not uncommon for a patient, including code one or the most critical patients, to be stuck inside an ambulance while paramedics try to find a hospital that has not reached capacity.

The Courier Mail newspaper, which accessed documents through Right to Information laws, revealed on Tuesday cases of critically ill patients dying while stuck in queues.

One patient was given paracetamol after waiting for almost four hours outside Nambour Hospital and died before being admitted, the paper reports the documents as saying.

United Voice Queensland co-ordinator Jeanette Temperley says a process called bypassing, where ambulances are told to go to the next nearest hospital happens every day in southeast Queensland. "It basically means you need to find another hospital because this one is full and possibly already has ambulances waiting outside," Ms Temperley told AAP. "Generally if it's a code one they would go to the nearest hospital and go into it straight away but there are times where that doesn't happen and they have to drive to the next hospital. "Bypassing happens everyday."

She said ramping, where patients are waiting in the corridors of hospitals often happens as well. "We would expect them out of the ambulance and in the hospital often in the corridors or in the back of the emergency department," Ms Temperley said. "But quite regularly people are in ambulances waiting for hours."

Queensland Health's acting director-general Dr Tony O'Connell said in a statement that bypassing is a rare event. "Many of Queensland's hospitals never go on bypass," Dr O'Connell said. "For those that do, bypass does not apply to the most urgent patients."

Dr O'Connell said Queensland's 24 biggest emergency departments operate for a total of 210,240 hours in each year. He said last year just 2.3 per cent (4,938 hours) of that total time was spent on bypass.

In the past three months, the median time patients have had to wait at emergency departments across Queensland was between 20 and 22 minutes, he said. "For the most urgent category of patients, the median wait time to be seen was less than a minute," he said. "It is categorically false to allege that the most urgent patients are subject to bypass, ramping, or prolonged waits."

The state opposition's health spokesman Mark McArdle said the government was misleading the public when it says the average waiting time for all cases presented to the state's emergency departments was less than an hour.

He said Right to Information documents show hundreds of patients have died in hospital emergency departments or were dead on arrival between July 1, 2009 and April 12, 2011.


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