Saturday, October 20, 2012

University of Queensland gets a new head in time to deal with a new corruption scandal

A distinguished Dane replaces a distinguished Jew.  Let's hope he turns out better than his corrupt predecessor.  A pity that it again took a newspaper article to get attention to the problem.  The initial response from the university was again to clam up -- but Hoj now appears to have bitten the bullet

There would seem to be a culture of corruption and coverup in the senior echelons of the UQ administration.  One must remember that Greenfield was not alone in being forced to resign. As a graduate  of UQ, I always have had an ear for news about the place but can recollect nothing similar prior to the Greenfield adminstration.  The culture concerned would then seem to be a Greenfield creation.  "A fish rots from the head down".

I may have missed it but I can recollect no mention of what happened to the student -- Greenfield's  daughter -- who was improperly admitted to the medical school.  Since she was at least an accessory to the deed, I can see to reason why she should be shielded.  If the university refuses to confirm that she is no longer in the medical school,  I think we will know what to conclude

There has also been no plausible reason given for the whistleblower behind the Greenfield revelations (Phil Procopis) no longer being employed by the university.  Hoj has a real job if he wants to dispel the stench

News reports from both yesterday and today below:

University of Queensland misconduct scandal as dental school involved in Medicare rort

19th October: THE University of Queensland is embroiled in a fresh misconduct scandal, refusing to come clean about how its dental school was involved in a Medicare rort.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that hundreds of members of the public who let UQ dentistry students practise on them in January 2010 were sent for expensive X-rays to businesses connected to two senior members of staff.

They were sent for Medicare-funded full-jaw OPG X-rays to businesses, one of which, Q-Scan Dental JV Pty Ltd, is half-owned by the school's deputy head Camile Farah. This was despite UQ having its own X-ray equipment available.

After an internal investigation, UQ tried twice to contact Medicare, but failed to follow up when it got no reply.

Vice-Chancellor Paul Greenfield, who was later forced out over a nepotism scandal, did not inform UQ's governing body, the Senate, raising questions about transparency at UQ.

UQ this week began a "review" of the investigation and has written to Medicare again after the original whistleblower made a further complaint.

"The complainant has since raised some concerns about the way in which the matter was handled," senior deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry said.

"On this basis, UQ's new associate director (investigations) will be undertaking a review of the case.

"The (Crime and Misconduct Commission) is aware of the review, which has now commenced."

The original probe, by UQ investigator Phil Procopis, found "unmanaged conflicts of interest" at the school. It also substantiated a claim that the Health Insurance Act had been breached, recommending UQ contact Medicare "to seek their advice on whether any compensatory action by UQ is needed".

But UQ, which received $750 million in taxpayer funding last year, will not say what action, if any, was taken against staff or what happened to the money generated.

UQ said the CMC had been "satisfied with the University's responses" to the recommendations that emerged from the initial investigation.

Whether to inform the Senate had been up to the then Vice-Chancellor, Paul Greenfield, Professor Terry said.

Medicare declined to comment, citing privacy and secrecy laws.

Documents show supervisors were told in January 2010 to send patients for 360-degree scans to pathology businesses in Brisbane, including QScan Dental JV which is half-owned by Professor Farah, an oral cancer specialist. He is also the consultant pathologist to that business. A colleague, Paul Monsour, is consultant to the other business, QDI.  Neither could be reached yesterday.

Each of the scans, known as an OPG, costs about $100, which would have been covered by Medicare.

On January 20, 2010, Brad Wright, clinical operations manager, wrote an email headed "OPGs" to almost 50 tutors at the School: "Please ensure patients go ONLY to QSCAN and QDI and ONLY where they take OPGs. These arrangements do not exist with other radiology clinics."

There's no suggestion QScan or QDI were involved in the rort.

Then on January 28, Mr Wright sent another email to students and staff in which he wrote: "RADIOGRAPHY Do not allow any more students to refer out OPGs."

Mr Procopis, who was the first to brief then chancellor John Story about the Paul Greenfield nepotism claims, was made redundant by UQ in June.


University of Queensland vows to get tough on staff misconduct after evidence of dental decay

20th October:  THE University of Queensland's new Vice-Chancellor has vowed to crack down on misconduct and make an example of staff who abuse their positions for personal gain.

"We can't just say: 'trust us'," Professor Peter Hoj said yesterday. "The only way we can change perceptions is by setting an example."

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed details of a rort at UQ's dental school in which hundreds of patients were sent for expensive x-rays to businesses with financial connections to two senior members of staff. UQ this week said it had begun a "review" of the case after the original whistleblower made a further complaint.

But Professor Hoj said yesterday the matter would now be "re-examined in its entirety", including to check whether patients were sent for the x-rays on the basis only of clinical need.

Fresh misconduct scandal hits UQ

UQ said two members of staff had been disciplined after an internal investigation that also found the Health Insurance Act had been breached.

But Professor Hoj said that if he found "on balance" that the way patients were dealt with was not justified, "I would ask whether disciplinary action was proportionate".

"The example we're setting now will diminish the risk of inappropriate behaviour happening again," he said.

UQ tried to contact Medicare twice after the original investigation found there had been a breach of the Health Insurance Act but did not hear back from them.

Senior Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry said yesterday UQ had expected to hear from Medicare "in the fullness of time".

UQ has refused to disclose the amount of money involved in the rort or what happened to the money.

Professor Terry said the Crime and Misconduct Commission had signed off on all aspects of the original investigation and the fact the whistleblower had come forward was evidence her governance reform package was working.

In a message to staff yesterday Professor Hoj did not directly address the misconduct issue.

But he said he was "looking forward to continuing working with all of you to address the challenges that our fine university is facing - these are challenges that cannot be ignored and will require an adjustment of some approaches".


Leftist crooks:  The fall in Australian poverty ignored

This week is Anti-Poverty Week, and the media repeated the welfare lobby’s line that there were 2.2 million Australians living below the poverty line, and that the proportion of people in poverty rose by ‘approximately one third of a percentage point from 2003 to 2010.’

What they didn’t bother to report was that according to the ACOSS report Poverty in Australia, the proportion of Australians living below the poverty line actually declined from 14.5% of the population in 2007 to 12.3% in 2010 (see pp. 32–33).

The fall in poverty was largely a result of the global financial crisis reducing growth in median incomes, combined with increased government expenditure on payments to pensioners, which pushed some people above the 50% median income threshold. As a result, welfare payments grew faster than income, and poverty fell.

If you think something is wrong with the picture of poverty in Australia since 2003, then you would be right. Commonsense suggests poverty should decrease when the economy is growing (2003–07) and increase when the economy is in trouble (2007–10). However, commonsense doesn’t seem to apply to poverty.

The problem lies in the definition of poverty as 50% of median income (about $358 per week for a single person). It is an arbitrary line that measures inequality, not poverty, and does not consider the numerous other benefits and subsidies (public housing and education) received by those on welfare.

Because the measurement of poverty is flawed, the proposed policy solution of increasing welfare payments like Newstart is equally flawed. It is telling that more than 50% of the 2.2 million people identified by ACOSS to be in poverty aren’t in the workforce at all. Less than 20% of those 2.2 million in poverty are in full-time work and more than 60% receive most of their income from welfare payments.

However, more money for welfare recipients will not address the causes of poverty. It would be better to focus resources on encouraging people capable of working into the workforce and tackling unemployment instead of spending increasing amounts of taxpayer money on welfare payments.


Woman's $55,000 compo award for slipping on gumnut overturned by Brisbane court

The doctrine that someone else is always responsible takes a tumble

QUEENSLAND'S highest court has overturned a decision to award an elderly woman $55,000 after she slipped on a gumnut while visiting family.

Florence Agnes Welch was 76 when she fell while walking down the stairs at Tim and Jane Graham's Brisbane home in 2006.

Ms Welch slipped on a gumnut that had fallen onto the step from a nearby tree. Ms Welch, who is Mrs Graham's aunt, sued the couple and NRMA Insurance.

Brisbane District Court judge Bill Everson found in Ms Welch's favour in May, ruling that the Grahams "were negligent in failing to provide and maintain a safe access to the house via the stairs by taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the stairs remained free of gumnuts".  He awarded Ms Welch $55,000 in damages.

However, the Grahams took the matter to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, the court overturned the original decision on the grounds that Ms Welch knew about the presence of gumnuts on the steps and that the risk of injury was small as the steps were regularly cleaned.

The court ruled it was impossible to have native Australian trees in suburban surrounds without the possibility of seed pods on walkways.

The court found it was unreasonable to expect homeowners to trim or remove all trees that posed any remote risk.


No cigar for photography phobia

A MOTHER and daughter who were refused drivers licences because they would not allow themselves to be photographed for religious reasons were not discriminated against, a tribunal has found.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, in a just-published decision, dismissed complaints of discrimination made by Sunrise Eliza Kayah Celeste Emanuel and Mimi Yahjah Emanuel (previously known as Wilhelmina Maria Anthonia).

The pair had claimed they had been discriminated against when the Queensland Government's Transport Department refused to issue them with licences when they declined to be photographed - a statutory requirement.

QCAT member Robert Wensley, QC, in a decision handed down late last year but only published this week, said the Emanuels claimed the refusal of Queensland Transport to issue them with licences due to their religious beliefs was a breach of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

Mr Wensley, in his 21-page judgment, said: "Each of these ladies complains that they have been unlawfully discriminated against because the State of Queensland has refused to issue them with driver licences because they declined to allow themselves to be photographed."

"Each (woman) says that she cannot agree to having her photograph taken for this purpose because her religious beliefs prevent it, the taking of a photograph being in direct violation of God's Second Commandment."

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Source: Wikipedia)

The women's complaint arose when they changed their names, legally, and attempted to have their existing drivers licences reissued, the tribunal was told.

"Queensland Transport refused to do this, when the ladies said that they could not have their photographs taken because of their religious beliefs," Mr Wensley said.

The pair, in presenting their case to the tribunal, tendered a copy of the Holy Bible in support of their argument.

"(They also tendered) a copy of a book written by Mrs Mimi Emanuel called 'Who's on the LORD's side', which deals in some detail with Mrs Mimi Emanuel's study and understanding of the Second Commandment," he said.

However, Mr Wensley dismissed the pair's complaint, saying it was reasonable for photographs be on licences.

"I conclude that the imposition of the requirement, to have a photograph on a Queensland driver licence, is a reasonable one in all of the circumstances," he said.

"Therefore, the claims of indirect discrimination must fail."


Bowel cancer screening:  Queensland Health Complaints Commissioner demands open waiting lists

THREE bowel cancer patients have complained to Queensland's independent health watchdog in the past nine months about diagnostic delays after long waits for colonoscopies in the public hospital system.

The issue has prompted Health Quality and Complaints Commissioner Russell Stitz, a colorectal surgeon, to call for colonoscopy lists to be published on the Queensland Health website.

Although public hospitals are required to publish their elective surgery waiting lists, colonoscopies are not included because they are considered medical procedures, rather than surgical operations.

"There's no doubt in my mind that there's a problem out there with delayed diagnosis as a result of delayed access to colonoscopy," Dr Stitz said. "We have anecdotal evidence from colorectal surgeons that delays are having an impact on patient outcomes."

The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by increased demand for colonoscopies created by the Federal Government's bowel cancer screening program.

Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Anne Savage supported the call for colonoscopy waiting lists to be reported in hospital performance data.

"Every week bowel cancer kills about 17 Queenslanders," she said. "We know nearly all cases can be cured if found early enough. If the cancer is detected before it has spread beyond the bowel, the chance of surviving for at least five years after diagnosis is 90 per cent.

"Symptoms of bowel cancer often don't become obvious until the cancer has reached a relatively advanced stage, which is why screening and early detection is so important."

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said patients requiring colonoscopies should be informed about public hospital waiting times to give them the option of making alternative arrangements, if possible.

"If you know it's going to be four years before you'll have any opportunity to have a particular procedure, then you may decide to cash out some leave, or take on some extra work, and pay for it yourself," Dr Markwell said.

"But if you're stuck on a list and you don't know when, or if, you might get seen, that's a horrible position to be in and people can't make informed decisions about their healthcare.

"That's a really important area that we need to improve."

Bundaberg patient advocate Beryl Crosby, who has been lobbying for colonoscopy lists to be made public, described the long waits for the procedure as "shameful".

"I have been told that there are already patients who have waited too long and have had bad outcomes," she said.

More than 2800 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed in Queensland each year.


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