Monday, November 21, 2011

Laugh of the day: SMH claims to be independent

There's "A letter to the reader" in the SMH today which is a barely camouflaged admission. The SMH does of course publish some conservative views but its lean to the Left is unmistakeable. So now they are in effect apologizing for that! One can only hope that it is a promise to do better that will be kept. They are obviously worried that their slant has alienated half of the population and sent them off to buy Murdoch publications instead. Bias is bad business. See the apologia below

Dear Reader

In 180 years of publishing, The Sydney Morning Herald has never wavered from its core values and promise to its readers – to deliver journalistic integrity and independence.

The Herald is launching a campaign today to re-state its commitment to journalism without fear or favour, to journalism which is above political influence and to journalism which serves the community with the utmost integrity.
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The line between trusted sources of journalism and unmoderated noise has become blurred.

We appreciate that readers need information they can trust. Information that assists them make to make sense of their world.

In the first issue of the Herald, the publishers declared the publication would be so stridently independent that all sides of politics would come to view it as an opponent.

We remain committed to this ideal. We work in the public good.

The Sydney Morning Herald is neither a recipient of government funding nor a mouthpiece for a media magnate.

We do not take your trust for granted. We know we have to earn it every day.

The Herald’s commitment to journalism with integrity and independence has never been so important as it is today.

We hope you agree and we thank you for your support.

Peter Fray

Publisher and Editor-in-chief


No doctors at W.A. hospital -- woman sent home and dies

SUFFERING debilitating headaches and a swollen stomach, a WA mother of four was turned away by a hospital and then sent home by a private GP with instructions to take Panadol. Just three hours later, Vanessa Elizabeth Dimer, 32, was dead.

The Dimer family is suing three doctors and Esperance Hospital over events preceding the tragic death.

The case is similar to that of Andrew Allan, the 16-year-old schoolboy who died after being sent home with Panadol by a junior nurse at Northam Hospital last year.

Ms Dimer visited Esperance Hospital in November 2008 but allegedly was told there was no doctor on duty. Instead, she was referred to a medical clinic where a GP told her to go home and take Panadol. She later collapsed and died in front of her horrified mother.

A civil lawsuit against the GPs and the WA Country Health Service was lodged in the District Court this week.

Her mother, Janet Faye Beck, and Ms Dimer's four children aged three to 17 and all from Esperance claim in the writ her death resulted from negligence, breach of duty, and the omission of medical advice, care and treatment.

Ms Beck, 57, said her daughter complained of severe headaches and a swollen stomach and sought emergency treatment at the hospital. "She was in a bad way, that is why she wanted medical help," Ms Beck told The Sunday Times. "She was very pale and shaky on her feet."

Ms Beck said a hospital nurse referred her daughter to a GP clinic because no doctor was on duty. "Vanessa was told by a doctor there to go home and take some Panadol, which she bought from a pharmacy straight afterwards," Ms Beck said.

"I went to her place later on and we were sitting out the front when all of a sudden she got up and screamed, 'Mum, my head', then she collapsed and died on the spot. "It happened three hours after she the left the clinic."

The dead woman's brother, Jason Dimer, 38, said the legal action was not about money. "We just want some answers and want to make sure something like this never happens again," he said from his home in Kalgoorlie.

Mr Dimer said the cause of death was initially given as unknown and later as a possible heart attack. [Did they not even do an autopsy??]


Australian taxpayers wear burden of 60,000 illegal immigrants

In a population of 22 million

AUSTRALIA has enough illegal immigrants on the loose to populate a large regional city. A Herald Sun investigation has found that nearly 60,000 people - one in every 390 - is in the country unlawfully, sparking renewed calls for a crackdown.

The 58,400 foreign citizens hiding illegally among us easily outnumber the populations of Mildura or Shepparton - Victoria's fifth and sixth biggest cities. And they dwarf the 4700 asylum seekers who arrived by boat in 2010-11.

Documents released to the Herald Sun under Freedom of Information also reveal the biggest groups of illegals are Chinese, Americans, Malaysians, Britons and South Koreans.

More than half have been here for five or more years; 20,000 for a decade or more; and two in three have evaded authorities for more than two years. (The figures do not include visitors who overstay visas by less than a fortnight.)

Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chairman Sam Afra said illegal residents attracted little of the outrage associated with boat people, despite taking jobs and housing, using public services, and not paying tax.

He said it was far too easy to stay here if you knew how to "work the system". "It's shocking," he said. "To have one in three who have been here more than 10 years (suggests) something's wrong with the system."

"Nobody's talking about it. It is a problem, and the question is, don't you think the damage justifies putting more resources in (to find them)?"

He said the involvement of illegals in criminal and other dubious activities also sullied the reputations of legal migrants.

Jailed terrorist cell leader Abdul Benbrika lived illegally for years after arriving on a visitor's visa in 1989. Three months after marrying in 1992, while still an illegal, he successfully applied to stay, living on welfare with his wife and seven children until his arrest in 2005.

Illegal immigrants have also been involved in drug cartels, sexual slavery, and fraud. Illegals accused of guarding marijuana crops in Melbourne and regional Victoria were among 43 people arrested last year in raids focusing on a $400 million crime syndicate.

A charter flight to deport 76 illegal aliens from Malaysia and Indonesia, busted picking fruit in Mooroopna last year, cost taxpayers $100,000.

Australian Human Rights Commission president Catherine Branson, QC, said it was important to remember many more overstayed visas, or arrived by plane and sought asylum, than arrived by boat.

"Another misconception is that people who arrive by boat are illegal immigrants. Australia is obliged to assess asylum seekers' claims."

There were 10,600 more illegals at June 30 last year than in 2005.


Plan for schools to hire and fire

A small step in the right direction

PRINCIPALS could poach talented student teachers and hire "a percentage" of staff under State Government proposals released today.

The Government will today release a discussion paper, "Local Decisions: stronger school communities", which looks to give parents and state school communities more say on improving education outcomes for Queensland children.

The paper says principals may be able to make an "early offer" of placement to student teachers due to complete their final year of university.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said it was important to ensure student teachers had the chance to gain employment while completing placements.

"It's a positive way for schools to see potential teachers in the school environment upfront and then to give them the flexibility to employ them," he said.

Other proposals include allowing principals and school communities to recruit a percentage of teaching staff depending on school size and location, allowing greater community use of school facilities and giving principals more flexibility to secure funding through philanthropic arrangements.

It comes after the Federal Government said yesterday it would also give principals greater input into hiring staff under a national blueprint, with 179 Queensland schools involved in the reform from next year.

Mr Dick said the percentage of staff recruitment they were proposing would vary across the state from school to school and region to region.

The discussion paper was developed together with teachers, principals and Parents and Citizens' Associations.

Mr Dick said consultation with parents and state school communities on decision-making was beneficial for all parties involved.

"The most effective schools are the ones where the principal, school staff, parents and the school community work together to get the best outcomes for students," he said.

Meanwhile, state LNP leader Campbell Newman said yesterday every state special school would receive 20 iPads or tablets and state and non-government schools with special education units would receive 10 each.


Is this stupid system still going on? It has been a scandal for decades

Sick system keeps doctors out of practice indefinitely

Susan Douglas's expertise as a doctor and obstetrician is indisputable. As an assistant professor of family medicine and head of Canada's largest obstetrics department, she had no trouble securing a lecturing job at the Australian National University's medical school in 2006.

While she is qualified enough to teach Australia's next generation of doctors, she cannot get full registration to practise medicine here herself. Dr Douglas is one of hundreds of overseas-trained doctors - encouraged by the government to come to Australia to ease critical gaps in the healthcare system - who are stymied from practising medicine when they arrive.

Some foreign doctors give up and leave. Others, such as Pakistan-trained Nasir Mehmood Baig - who arrived in 2005 and has a wife and four children to support - drive taxis while navigating their way towards registration. Those who eventually have their qualifications recognised have to work for 10 years often in remote areas shunned by domestically trained doctors if they want access to Medicare billing, without which they cannot make a living.

Most had no idea of the obstacle course they would face when they answered the call to come to Australia to help plug holes created in the years after the Keating and Howard governments froze enrolments of medical students to contain the Medicare bill.

The registration system is so convoluted that MPs carrying out a federal parliamentary inquiry into ways of making it simpler without cutting standards have been left perplexed. The inquiry's chairman, Labor MP Steve Georganas, says the accreditation and registration process is a "complex mishmash" that does not work properly.

It is not as though Australia doesn't need foreign-trained doctors. Almost 40 per cent of Australia's 75,000 doctors trained overseas. About 68 per cent of them work in major cities.

Less than a third work in rural and remote areas but they make up almost half the medical workforce in those areas. In one-doctor towns, often they are the only physician.

Nobody denies the need to carefully check medical qualifications, and all agree a good standard of English is needed. "Absolutely, they have to be thorough in verifying someone's credentials," Dr Douglas said. "The problem is that the assessment we demand of foreign doctors is far greater than what we demand for our own practitioners."

Registration processes were tightened, centralised and supposedly streamlined after the "Dr Death" scandal in which Queensland authorities failed to check the credentials of Jayant Patel, the surgeon recruited from the US and now serving seven years in jail for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

Commonwealth and state governments set up the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in July last year to replace myriad state and professional boards. But the post-Patel reforms seem to have made things more complicated.

In June, a Senate committee inquiry into the new regulation agency, after hearing complaints of long delays, poor advice and lost paperwork, called on the agency to "significantly improve its performance". The same complaints have been made to the committee chaired by Mr Georganas.

The process is one of the most difficult to understand in the world, according to Rural Health Workforce Australia. Martina Stanley, director of a medical recruitment company, says other Western countries have complex and strict systems but "we have the worst system for co-ordination", with a reputation for "causing frustration that makes us look ridiculous".

Foreign doctors face a spaghetti bowl of red tape, involving multiple agencies. The Australian Medical Council checks and tests their credentials, the medical colleges govern specialists and the Medical Board of Australia registers them so they can practise. The regulation agency handles the paperwork. Gaining registration can entail more than a dozen processes.

Late last year, Queensland MPs from electorates reliant on foreign doctors and alarmed at what they saw as discrimination by regulators and medical colleges, demanded a parliamentary inquiry.

Nationals MP Bruce Scott talked of a system "that has just gone mad". Independent MP Bob Katter described the process as a disgrace. "Without overseas-trained doctors, regional Australia could not function," he said.

In response, the federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, asked the House of Representatives committee on health and ageing to hold an inquiry. It will report early next year after receiving close to 200 submissions and holding 20 public hearings. It heard persistent complaints from doctors forced to do onerous language tests; of accrediting agencies not sharing information; of a lack of transparency; of shifting rules; and of a perception that the medical establishment is a closed shop protecting vested interests.

"It's clear the system is not working properly," Mr Georganas told The Sun-Herald. "I don't think what we're talking about is discrimination but I think it's this stupid bureaucracy that has grown out of each different college and the Australian Medical Council. Every step of the way there's a separate bureaucracy. None of them talk to each other."

He highlighted the case of Dr Douglas, now vice-president of the Australian Overseas Trained Doctors Association, who told the inquiry of a Kafkaesque ordeal with a "dysfunctional, difficult and irrational bureaucracy".

The Canadian is a native English speaker but to practise here she had to provide written proof of her language proficiency from her high school which closed decades ago.

She was forced to do the costly medical council accreditation process twice in two years and was confounded by more than one catch-22. She had to obtain a fellowship with the college of general practitioners before she could register as a GP - but she could not get a fellowship until she was registered.

As processes dragged on, Dr Douglas said she "fell into a state of deep depression". "It isn't that any one event in itself is particularly shocking," she wrote to the committee, "it is the fact that the problems never seem to end and just go on and on, to the point where you literally feel like you are losing your mind."

Australia's dependence on foreign doctors is self-made. The decision by first Labor and then Liberal federal governments in the 1990s to freeze local medical school enrolments was made amid predictions of an oversupply of doctors. But the freeze did not account for a growing population and the reluctance of Australian doctors to work in the bush. So doctors were recruited from overseas.

There was a catch. The Howard government barred doctors who entered the country after 1997 from billing under Medicare for 10 years unless they worked in areas of need, often in rural towns.

At the heart of the system are the Australian Medical Council and the Medical Board of Australia. Both are unapologetic, defending the need for strict standards to protect patient welfare. The council's chief executive, Ian Frank, concedes the process can be complex, creating stress and frustration for doctors involved.

"Nevertheless," he told the committee, "the assessment and registration of medical practitioners is a high-stakes process where individual failures, as evidenced by the Patel case in Queensland, can be very costly for the Australian community and lead to a loss of confidence in the regulatory processes . not to mention adverse clinical outcomes for individual patients."

The chairwoman of the medical board, Joanna Flynn, said the process had to be stringent to ensure only qualified people were registered. She insisted the complaints did not reveal a systematic failure by the board and associated bodies.

"We try to make a good judgment call between the need to provide medical services to the community and the need to ensure that everybody is appropriately qualified," she said. "I believe that most of the time we get that right." But Dr Flynn said more effort could be made in explaining the process. The board and the medical council were looking at ways of reducing duplication, possibly with an online repository of documents so doctors do not have to provide separate certificates to different agencies.

A central grievance of foreign doctors is the Medicare rule and their complaint is backed by major professional bodies. Former Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce said lifting the 10-year moratorium was the best way of supporting foreign doctors. He said the rule raised significant human rights issues, while allowing governments to avoid their responsibility to train enough local doctors and provide incentives for them to work in regional areas.

The system meant foreign doctors were conscripted to work in the bush, Dr Pesce said. Given the lack of support and the nature of rural practice, there "could not have been a worse place" to send doctors unfamiliar with Australia.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia says overseas-trained doctors have prevented a catastrophic collapse in the medical workforce in rural and remote areas but it too wants the "unconscionable" 10-year moratorium phased out.

Ms Roxon said she did not want to pre-empt the inquiry's findings. In a written response to questions from The Sun-Herald, she appeared to rule out lifting the 10-year rule.

Overseas-trained doctors had "proven to be a very effective way of improving workforce shortages in the areas of greatest need, which tend to be located in rural and regional Australia, and the government has no current plans to change this", she said.


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