Tuesday, May 01, 2012

CMC appoints retired judge Richard Chesterman to assess claim of doctor malpractice made by whistleblower Jo Barber

RETIRED judge Richard Chesterman QC has been appointed to assess claims of doctor malpractice leading to death and injury in Queensland.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission made the decision on Monday.   It follows allegations from whistleblower Jo Barber who had complained to the CMC that complaints against doctors were ignored or covered up by government agencies.

Ms Barber, 42, is employed by Queensland Health's ethical standard unit. Previously she worked as a police officer and was chief investigator on the Medical Board of Queensland.

In that role she was the board's representative on the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.  She handled cases going back two decades.

"Complaints were not properly investigated," she said. "I found it all very bizarre. I tried to refer matters to the (then) Health Minister Geoff Wilson who referred me to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission - the very agency I was complaining about."

It was then Ms Barber decided to tell her story to The Courier-Mail.

"The system is broken, very broken. I was told it couldn't be fixed. It was just the way it was," she said.  "I'm not trying to be judge, jury or executioner here. I'm just trying to voice my concerns."

In March, Ms Barber gave the Crime and Misconduct Commission the name of a Gold Coast doctor who allegedly turned off the oxygen to a gravely ill woman who nurses said was still conscious.

They gave evidence the woman died in a distressed state even though she had explicitly asked for time to say goodbye to her family and accept her fate.

The doctor is still practising despite three "significant" complaints against him brought by fellow doctors and corroborated by the nurses.

Ms Barber said the same doctor was accused by his colleagues of callous disregard for another elderly woman, who died when her ventilator was switched off after she received what was considered by his peers to be an incorrect drug dose.


Students flock to Tassie

TASMANIA is winning its bid to become a tertiary education mecca with new figures showing overseas student numbers are flocking here.

More than 4000 students from across the world have been drawn to the University of Tasmania's academic centres of excellence, which include maritime, fisheries, earth and Antarctic sciences.

The sector contributes about $120 million annually to the state's economy, boosting tourism and retail and UTAS says that figure could skyrocket.

Civic and academic leaders say the students are enriching the state's cultural life, while CBD student developments would enliven Hobart city.

UTAS enrolments have reached a high of 24,255, including 4167 from overseas spread over three campuses, and a growth in overseas students starting this year.

Only Tasmania and the Northern Territory enjoyed growth in international students.

"We've seen a 10-year growth and we'd like it to substantially increase," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education) David Sadler said.

"It's more than just a dollar value, it's about the cultural enrichment that goes with it," Prof Sadler said.  "It happened in a number of English cities where overseas students contributed to a cultural renaissance.  "There's a substantial amount of work in the CBD with an emerging precinct around the Domain and the Menzies."

Lord Mayor Damon Thomas said more students enriched the city. "It adds to the city's vitality, restaurants and nightclubs are better used," Ald Thomas said.

Prof Sadler said Launceston had done particularly well with overseas students this year, especially the Maritime College. Overall state figure was up on last year.

Medicine, pharmacy, architecture, business, law, science and engineering, education and arts are popular for overseas students.

Jose-Mauro Vargas Hernandez, from Costa Rica, is studying a PhD in physical oceanography at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, saying the relationship with the CSIRO and the good facilities were an asset.

Chalit Kongsuwan, from Thailand, is studying a PhD in fine art, specialising in furniture design.  "It was recommended by my teacher in Thailand and he graduated himself from the art school. The quality of craft in Hobart helped my decision."

Dortea Andersen, of Denmark, is doing her masters in pharmaceutical sciences.  "My supervisor had been here herself. I wanted to go somewhere different and this is the other side of the world. It's not that different culturally from Denmark."


Teacher sacked over pregnancy

She should not have taken a job there if she did not intend to follow the rules she agreed to

A pregnant and unmarried teacher at a Sunshine Coast Christian college claims she has been sacked for breaking the "lifestyle agreement" part of her contract by having a child out of wedlock.

Jamie Davidson, the sister of kindergarten teacher Jess Davidson, said Jess informed her employer, Caloundra Christian Community Kindergarten, last month that she was pregnant.

Then, two weeks ago after a series of meetings with the principal and deputy principal, she was told she would lose her job at the end of the term.

Jamie said Jess was told she was being sacked for falling pregnant while unmarried.

Jess has had external advice that she should not talk to media.   "She was told that being pregnant and not married did not align with the school's designation as a Christian lifestyle," Jamie said.  "It has put her under a lot of stress and it's really early in her pregnancy.  "She didn't want to tell anyone until around 13 weeks but now everyone knows."

Jess is a single mother who has two children aged seven and nine enrolled at Caloundra Christian College. She was married when she had the children, but when she was first employed by the college two years ago she was a single mother.

"We're just devastated," Jamie said.  "We were really shocked and really surprised it could happen in 2012. We didn't expect this sort of reaction."

brisbanetimes.com.au has obtained a copy of the Lifestyle Agreement which states "it is a genuine occupational requirement" that nothing in the deliberate conduct of the staff "should be incompatible with the intrinsic character of their position, especially, but not only, in relation to the expression of human sexuality through heterosexual, monogamous relationships, expressed intimately through marriage".

Jess signed the agreement when she started at the kindergarten and was working full-time when she was fired.

Principal of Caloundra Christian College Mark Hodges confirmed Jess's employment would be terminated at the end of the term, but said he could not give the reason because of privacy obligations.

"It's not to do with the pregnancy, though she did contravene the lifestyle agreement," he said.

When asked if he was saying he did not sack Jess for being pregnant and unmarried, Mr Hodges said he could not answer because of privacy concerns.  He then sent a statement which said: "As a Christian College we require that all staff have, and demonstrate, a faith and lifestyle consistent with the Christian beliefs taught here.

"These beliefs are set out in College policies and documents, including the agreement under which all staff are employed. This requirement is also made clear to staff prior to appointment.

"Whenever concerns are raised in relation to any issue of staff performance or conduct they are thoroughly investigated by the College and discussed with the staff member concerned.  "Our hope is always to find positive solutions and seek restoration whenever that is possible."

Mr Hodges said he was happy to meet with any parents who wished to discuss the school's policies and practices.

Jamie has set up a Facebook page called "I support Miss Jess" which has attracted more than 300 'likes'.

A parent at the school Melinda Saunders is one of Jess's supporters and has two children who have been taught by her.

She told the Sunshine Coast Daily she met with Mr Hodges to protest Jess's sacking and he gave her a copy of the Lifestyle Agreement as an explanation.

"It's shocking and devastating, it's her job, her whole future and she doesn't need this stress when she is pregnant," Ms Saunders said.


Discrimination against obese women

Is anyone surprised?

A new study has found that obese women face discrimination when applying for jobs.

Researchers from Monash University asked people in the study to view a series of resumes with a photo of the applicant.  They found obese women were more likely to face discrimination when applying for a job and more likely to be paid less than their slimmer colleagues.

The university's Dr Kerry O'Brien says discrimination against obese candidates was strong in all job selection criteria, including starting salary and leadership potential.

"If they're less likely to be in high-status jobs, it's not because they're lazy and stupid - which are some of the stereotypes - it's because we actually put them there because we discriminate against them," he said.

"We know that lower socioeconomic status is associated with greater obesity, so really it's becoming a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy with this discrimination."

Researchers also found that the more highly the participants rated their own physical attractiveness, the more likely they were to discriminate against obese candidates.

The findings have been published in the International Journal of Obesity.


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