Sunday, February 13, 2011

Little kids bombed out with drugs to save work for their government "carers"

Children as young as one in state care are being given powerful ADHD drugs - against warnings from pharmaceutical companies.

Research by The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian reveals that the rate of medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder among young people in foster homes is more than double that in the general population.

Even more alarming is that 7 per cent - one in 14 - children under the age of six in care is being prescribed the drugs despite advice they should not be given to people that young.

"It is particularly concerning to hear from carers that children as young as one year of age are being medicated for ADHD," said Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser in a previously unreported study presented to Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves last September.

Youth Affairs Network of Queensland director Siyavash Dhoostkhah said both the Government and the commission were failing in their duty of care to vulnerable children. "It's a scandal of the greatest level," he said. "These young children are being treated as guinea pigs."

Some medications also carry a warning that they can raise the risk of suicidal thoughts.

The use of ADHD drugs for children so young also is at odds with national guidelines issued by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and National Health and Medical Research Council in November 2009. They state: "Medication should not be used as first-line treatment for ADHD in preschool-aged children."

Department of Communities figures show there are 7800 children and young people in foster and other out-of-home care in Queensland. About a third of them are aged under six. The commission's findings mean about 170 young people in that age group are being given ADHD drugs.

The Youth Affairs Network is part of a coalition now preparing a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Mr Reeves refused to comment. A Department of Communities spokesperson said ADHD medication was sometimes prescribed in complex or extreme support cases.


Two WA country hospitals face lawsuits over child deaths

The parents of three dead children are preparing massive lawsuits against the WA hospitals they claim let them down. A mother intends to sue Geraldton Regional Hospital for gross negligence after the death of her six-year-old son, and Northam Hospital will be hit with legal action relating to the treatment of Andrew Allan, 16, and baby Lachlan Hughes. The families confirmed this week they were consulting lawyers, but might not issue writs until after coronial inquests are complete.

The Health Department confirmed it had investigated the case of Sebastian Parman, who was turned away on consecutive days by doctors at Geraldton Regional Hospital in September with a fever, high temperatures and a red rash. His mother, Samantha Piani, said he was not admitted until her own GP wrote a letter saying he needed intravenous antibiotics immediately. The boy died the next morning when his heart failed to cope with a build-up of fluid on his lungs.

Ms Piani said the cause of death was swine flu and pneumonia similar to Andrew Allan, who was not even referred to a doctor who was just metres away in the emergency department at Northam Hospital.

She dismissed the review into the treatment of her son as "trying to sweep serious flaws under the carpet" by saying he was struck down by two serious illnesses that likely cost his life. "They did not do blood samples or take swabs, nothing," she said. "The only reason they found out he had swine flu was because of the autopsy. They only discovered he had pneumonia when the pediatrician reviewed an X-ray taken the previous night and noticed an accumulation of fluid on his lungs. "I said, 'How can that happen? They sent him home the previous night saying it was clear'," she said.

Ms Piani said the trauma has prevented her returning to work as a nurse.

The parents of Lachlan Hughes are still awaiting a report into the death of their 12-day-old baby, who died after two visits to Northam Hospital in August. He was assessed by a midwife on the first occasion. They took him home, but returned the next day after he began coughing up mucus and was having problems breathing. A doctor and midwife assessed him, and he was again sent home. He died 32 hours later.

His heartbroken mother, Sarah, 25, said this week she and her 31-year-old husband, Phillip, would likely sue Northam Hospital for negligence. "We are pretty sure the review will come out more on our side," she said. "Lachlan's illness should have been diagnosed a lot earlier. If it was, he could still be alive today."

In September, an inexperienced nurse sent Northam High School student Andrew Allan home with breathing problems and a temperature of 40C. He died a few hours later in his bed. His parents, Kylie, 44, and James, 46, intend to take legal action, citing gross negligence.

A review into Andrew's death exposed basic treatment blunders and CCTV footage revealed he could barely walk and collapsed into a sofa just after he entered the hospital.

Since the scandal was revealed by The Sunday Times, new statewide directives have been issued relating to hospital emergency care. The changes include:

* Every patient must be surveyed by a qualified triage nurse before a secondary assessment in an emergency department.

* Anyone with a high temperature must be seen by a doctor.

* Discharge of a patient from rural hospitals where there is no GP needs to be reviewed and carefully considered by an experienced and credentialled emergency nurse.

Additional CCTV cameras and monitoring stations will be installed at Northam Hospital.

The Health Department said it could not comment because all three deaths were subject to coronial inquiries.

The nurse at the centre of the Northam Hospital controversy has been sacked "due to the seriousness of the incident" and his "failure to co-operate" with a Health Department review into the circumstances surrounding Andrew's death. He remains registered subject to an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

The agency said it was bound by legislation and could not comment.


Another labelling fail

Customers overlooking unit pricing

Shoppers are spending more at the checkouts because they are not using unit prices to work out the cheapest brands. Research shows that fewer than 50 per cent of shoppers overseas look at the unit price when buying groceries and experts say the take-up rate in Australia is as low. Unit pricing was introduced here just over a year ago.

[I'd like to see the research behind that 50%. I see lots of people in my local supermarket loading up their trolleys but it's a rarity to see them stop and read a label. What people say they do and what they actually do can be two different things.]

Gary Mortimer, from QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, said that with so much information on labels, like price, barcode, size and description, shoppers could be overwhelmed, or simply not have the time to do the maths.

Ian Jarrett, of the Queensland Consumers Association, which has been lobbying for unit prices to be printed in the same type size recommended for packaging labels, said there were big savings to be made.

His survey of prices at one supermarket came up with a trolley full of savings. For example, sultanas in six small packs cost $10.38 a kilo but only $3.79 a kilo if bought in a 1kg bag. A tub of Meadowlea margarine cost 50c for each 100g if bought in a 1kg tub, 70c for each 100g if bought in a 500g tub or 78c in a 250g tub.

But Dr Mortimer said there was a need for caution. "A larger packet may be cheaper per gram than a smaller packet but if you have to pay a higher retail price to start with, it becomes a false economy if you end up wasting half the contents of the larger packet because you simply cannot use it all."

He said it was also important to remember unit pricing did not take into consideration such things as different plies of toilet paper and different concentrations of products such as washing detergents and cordial. "Unit pricing does not capture different densities, concentrations and strengths and these need to be taken into consideration," he said.

Mr Mortimer said different demographics were attracted to unit pricing. "There are some shoppers who think 'I am pretty well paid, I don't need to save money'," he said. "And there are some Gen-Y shoppers, and particularly male shoppers, who think 'I want to get in and get out. I don't have time to look at the different numbers on the ticket'.

"But if you are a mum with three kids from a working-class environment and need to buy 800g or a kilo for lunches for the kids and dad this week and you can wait to be served, you can make a saving."


Speculate, Speculate, Speculate

Medical researchers seem to do little else. The claim below that sunshine lowers MS risk is totally naive. What their results more likely show is that people in poor health don't go out much

The Australian love affair with the great outdoors may have contributed to lower rates of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to research from The Australian National University.

The Ausimmune Study, coordinated by Associate Professor Robyn Lucas from the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment and involving researchers from across Australia, found that people who spend more time in the sun, and those with higher vitamin D levels, may be less likely to develop MS.

MS is a chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord and has long baffled researchers, who continue to search for its cause and cure. This study, published in the February 8 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, takes us one step closer to understanding the risk factors that may lead to MS.

Associate Professor Lucas said that many people who experience preliminary symptoms of the sort that occur in MS – known as a ‘first event’ – go on to develop the disease. The Ausimmune Study found that the risk of having a first event was lower in people with higher sun exposure – over the whole of their lives as well as in the months preceding the event, compared with unaffected people of the same age and sex and living in the same region of Australia.

“People with the highest levels of vitamin D were also less likely to have a diagnosed first event than people with the lowest levels,” she said.

The study is the first to look at sun exposure and vitamin D status in people who had experienced a first event with the type of symptoms found in MS.

“Previous studies have looked at people who already have MS,” said Dr Lucas. “This has made it difficult to know whether having the disease led them to change their habits in the sun or their diet. That is, it has not been possible to work out if low sun exposure or vitamin D cause the disease or were caused by having the disease.”

Associate Professor Lucas said that the study showed, for the first time in a human population, that the effects of sun exposure and vitamin D act independently of each other, with each having a beneficial effect in decreasing the risk of a first event.

“Further research should evaluate both sun exposure and vitamin D for the prevention of MS,” she said.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

1 comment:

Paul said...

"Anyone with a high temperature must see a Doctor" That's a NEW guideline??? What is going on these days. I need to get out, this isn't the system I started in.