Monday, May 06, 2013

Australian Medical Association angered over claims by president of the Australian Vaccination Network

A LEADING anti-vaccination group has sparked alarm by warning parents not to trust their doctor's advice on whether to have their children vaccinated.

The new president of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) Greg Beattie says parents should instead consult books and "health professionals who maybe aren't in the medical mainstream".

And he warns parents who do vaccinate their children they may be "jeopardising their children's health".

As concerns mount that 70,000 Australian children have not been vaccinated and conscientious objection rates are rising, Mr Beattie says his advice to parents is: "Don't trust the judgement of your GP."

"If you read one good book on vaccinations you'll probably know ten times more than your average GP," he told News Limited in an exclusive interview.

"I'm not saying don't talk to your GP, I'm saying don't rely on them for your decision, you need to know they are handed their adopted stance. They are taught what to say about vaccination ... look into it yourself and then make up your mind," he said.

Australian Medical Association chief Dr Steve Hambleton expressed outrage that the AVN was "running down the skills of doctors each of whom has spent a decade in training".

While he urged parents to self-,Dr Hambleton said they should do so using trusted sources such as the Academy of Science's booklet The Science of Immunisation or the Australian Immunisation Handbook or the Immunise Australia website.

Admitting there were side effects from vaccines, Dr Hambleton said they were usually minor and far better than the death and illness caused by the actual disease.

And he conceded that no vaccine was 100 per cent effective which was why immunisation rates needed to remain high to provide herd immunity to protect those in whom the vaccine did not work.

"Doctors are trained to assess evidence and make recommendations based on risks and benefits," he said.

Mr Beattie said he refused to immunise six of his seven children after his first child was vaccinated but still contracted measles.

The AVN leader said he didn't believe that parents who don't vaccinate their children are putting their lives at risk.

"I think there is a possibility, in fact, that parents who do vaccinate their children are quite possibly jeopardising their children's health," he said.

Some children are more susceptible than others the physical deterioration after vaccination and this is "something that one day science will catch up with", he says.

Mr Beattie denies that immunisation is responsible for the dramatic reduction in killer infectious diseases in the last century.

Although a document from the Australian Academy of Science supporting immunisation clearly shows disease rates dropped dramatically after vaccinations were introduced, Mr Beattie said "the vast majority in deaths from these diseases occurred before the vaccines were even available".

His alternative explanation is that disease reduction is due to "improved nutrition, improved sanitation, improved socio-economic circumstances in general".

Mr Beattie has written two books opposing immunisation and lost a legal fight in the late 1990's against a council childcare centre that refused to admit his unvaccinated children.

He says the idea that unvaccinated children should be excluded from a social event or situation "is quite ludicrous".

The AVN has recently been embroiled in a number of legal battles over its anti-vaccination message and will next month fight an attempt by the NSW Fair Trading to force it to change its name.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek backed doctors and healthcare professionals, saying through a spokesman dismissing their help could be a serious risk.

"Doctors and health professionals are the best people to talk to about vaccination," the spokesman said.  "Ignoring their advice and relying on unscientific opinion can have serious consequences."


Ambulance staff furious now a groper demoted for sexual harassment will return to work alongside complainants

AMBULANCE workers are furious a manager demoted for sexual harassment will be retrained and returned to work alongside his complainants.

The Courier-Mail has been told the Department of Community Safety Ethical Standards Unit investigated allegations of "inappropriate interaction with female staff members" by the senior Queensland Ambulance Service employee.

"The QAS takes breaches of this policy very seriously," a department spokesman said.  "After careful consideration the QAS determined the appropriate penalty to be demotion to a base grade position.  This demotion constitutes a significant reduction of approximately $47,000 per annum in base salary.

"To ensure no recurrence of such behaviour other actions have been commenced including a range of retraining, formalised continuous supervision and commencement of a structured Performance Improvement Plan."

However, workers at the communications centre involved say it is outrageous the man will be allowed back to sit among those who complained about his actions.

"This is just not fair on the girls," one source said.  "There were a number of complaints and they included unwanted physical contact . . . touching of arms, shoulders and backs, as well as lewd comments."

Counselling was provided to staff following the reported incidents.

United Voice, the professional ambulance officers union, has informed QAS it will seek further discussions over the matter.

"We have concerns about the implementation of these recommendations and the impact they will have on our members," a spokeswoman said. "We have been working with members involved."

A QAS spokesman said the staff member involved had expressed remorse and formally apologised.  "The QAS is confident that appropriate action has been taken to address the concerns of the complainants and mitigate the risk of further breaches of the code upon the staff member's return."


A bus stop where the bus never comes

The idea of waiting for a bus that is never going to come may seem infuriating, but for dementia patients a fake bus stop reduces anxiety and wandering.

The phenomena is becoming more common, particularly in Europe, and two University of Canberra post-graduate Occupational Therapy students have just incorporated one into an exploratory garden they've built in a south coast nursing home.

Sophie Trevillian, 24, and Josie Reeves, 25, have spent the past six weeks planning, sourcing funding and materials and executing an upgrade of the garden of the Basin View Masonic Village, with the aim of providing meaningful activity for dementia patients. It includes a herb garden, fishing boat, chook pen - and a bus stop.

"When we were in the planning stages … what we noticed [was] residents were looking for the bus stop or asking what time the bus was coming," Ms Reeves said.

"[Dementia patients] go back to the activities they used to do, so a lot of them want to catch a bus. [They think] they've got to go home tonight because they've got to go to their mum's house, or they need to wait for the kids at the bus stop … so by having a physical object for them to see and not look any more for the bus stop … that makes them feel calm," Ms Trevillian added.

For dementia patients with poor short-term memory, the fact the bus never comes is irrelevant.

It's a simple solution, underpinned by an occupational therapy theory that all people, regardless of any impairment, need to occupy their time in a way that will give them a sense of purpose and enjoyment.

"What the students have done by developing the exploratory garden is really to provide some objects and opportunities for the residents with dementia to do the things they remember doing from the past, such as catching the bus, going fishing in a tinny, picking vegetables and flowers, feeding the chooks, collecting eggs," Associate Professor Alison Wicks, the students' supervisor, said.

"When they do that now it brings back that same sense of purpose and meaning and satisfaction that it did … maybe 30, 40 years ago."

Ms Trevillian, who recruited her father, his bobcat and a friend to come from Canberra to donate a week of their time, said the garden will not only stimulate memories, but also topics of conversation and interaction with visitors.

And with evidence that meaningful occupation can reduce the need for medication, the students and Professor Wicks will be documenting the process and results at a conference in Japan next year, with hopes the partnership can extend to more care facilities in the region.


Fiscal fixes

Everyone now agrees the nation’s public finances are in need of repair, but not on why or how. Is the problem too little revenue or too much spending?

The Gillard government wants us to believe the problem is one of unprecedented revenue shortfalls leading to unexpected deficits. But this begs the question, ‘shortfalls relative to what?’ This year’s budget was based on an estimated 11.8% surge in revenue, which was probably never realistic to start with.

The day after the prime minister’s declaration of war on the deficit using taxpayers as cannon fodder, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released new data that help shed light on the nature of the underlying problem. Yes, revenue has been weak for the last few years, but expenditure has been strong.

All levels of government combined (Commonwealth, state and local) spent the equivalent of 35.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011/12. This was the second-highest figure on record, exceeded only when the Rudd government’s stimulus spending was at its peak in 2009/10. (The 10-year average before the financial crisis was 34.1% of GDP.) Spending was far too slow to recede after the stimulus. It actually went up as a share of GDP between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Even before the stimulus spending, the size of government was excessive, leading not to deficits at that time but to an excessive tax burden.

We don’t yet have comparable figures for 2012/13, but every indication is that the fundamental fiscal problem is a size-of-government problem rather than a revenue shortfall (which is not to deny that depressed revenue is also contributing to the deficits).

In March, The Centre for Independent Studies launched its TARGET30 campaign aimed at reducing the size of government to 30% of GDP or less over 10 years. If achieved, this would not only solve the deficit problem but also create room for much-needed shrinkage of the tax burden through tax cuts, restructuring, and in some cases, outright abolition. At that time, the ABS figures were available only up to 2010/11 and revealed that the size of government was just below 35% of GDP. The 2011/12 figures show that the task has not become any easier, but remains readily achievable through a combination of spending restraint and economic growth.


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