Monday, October 08, 2012

Workers' funds are not so super

Most funds underperform the stockmarket average and the fees charged are a lead weight.  And the rooster of today can easily become the feather duster of tomorrow.  Studying company form and making your own share purchases is hard to beat

MORE than six million Australians would have been better off stuffing cash under a mattress than putting it in their employers' default superannuation option over the last five financial years.

Today News Limited reveals the worst and best performing super funds in Australia over the past decade and the true cost of our inaction on super.

Most Australians make no active choice when it comes to super; the majority (60 per cent) have their super paid automatically into the default investment option of their employers chosen superannuation fund.

Thanks to the battering of the global financial crisis, every dollar invested in a typical default fund went backwards, after fees and taxes, by 0.3 per cent a year on average over the past five financial years, according to data from SelectingSuper, a service of research group Rainmaker.

Of the 83 default super options available over the five years, 51 delivered negative annual returns for members (6,066,129 member accounts) and 32 delivered positive returns (10,179,634 member accounts).

"The past decade, and the time since the global financial crisis especially, has been a train wreck for super funds," Alex Dunnin, head of research at Rainmaker, told News Limited.

But the SelectingSuper figures show choice of fund is crucial, revealing large and persistent divergences across fund performance.

The top performing default option REST Industry Super - delivered an average annual return of 6.7 per cent, after fees and taxes, to its nearly 2 million members over the decade.

The worst performing default option - Connelly Temple Employer Super - returned just 2.5 per cent a year to its 20,551 members.

So $10,000 invested in the worst fund a decade ago would be worth $12,800 today, but the same amount invested in the best fund would be worth $19,100 - a potential $6,300 windfall just from being in the best fund.

"We're spending all this money on super, but if you're in a dud fund, you're basically just pissing it up the wall," Mr Dunnin said.

The industry's mantra that "past performance is no guide to future performance" was not true, Mr Dunnin added.

In fact, Australians could gain a lot by comparing funds according to their longer term return over five or ten years and switching to the better performing funds.

"It's like footy teams. If you're consistently down the bottom of the league table then you're probably not going to win the championship the next year. Funds that are below average tend to stay below average."

The chief economist at CommSec, Craig James, said it was important not to make knee-jerk reactions to market downturns.

But, in theory, a person who had withdrawn money from their default super fund and put the cash under their mattress would at least have preserved the face value of their money.

"Not that this is a recommended strategy, but with the benefit of hindsight, some one who did that wouldn't have been any worse off, perhaps slightly better off."

Mr James said Australians would have to get used to more modest superannuation returns.

"I think perhaps in the past we had become too accustomed to super normal returns and expecting they were going to last forever. Really, when you think about investing for retirement, the bulk of those savings will be provided by your own hard work."


Construction code would keep militant building unions in line

THE Queensland construction industry wants a code of conduct and a state regulator to clamp down on militant building unions such as the CFMEU and BLF.

Master Builders Queensland and Australian Mines and Metals Association told a construction industry forum the increased militancy of unions was putting major construction projects at risk.

The claim follows the 59-day strike at the Queensland Children's Hospital site that stopped all construction work, and the Grocon dispute that ended in an ugly street riot in Melbourne.

Master Builders and the Australian Mines and Metals Association said it was made worse by the Federal Government scrapping the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Master Builders construction policy director John Crittall said the commercial sector of the Queensland building and construction industry over the past year had experienced one of the most difficult periods of unlawful industrial conduct in history.

At the hospital site a picket line was run by a union activist, rather than by the officials of the union, allowing the shutdown of the site to continue after Fair Work Australia ordered a return to work and a federal magistrate banned CFMEU officials from the site.

"The critical issue is the failure of the industrial system and the building unions to abide by the rule of law," Mr Crittall said.

"The emasculation of the ABCC and militant union tactics during agreement-making under the Fair Work legislation have resulted in unprecedented periods of industrial action and lost time."

He said the construction industry needed a stable industrial environment to lure investment and create jobs.

"The failure of the industrial system to cope with industrial disputes adds further weight to the need for a new building industry code of conduct in Queensland to protect building projects."

Australian Mines and Metals Association executive director of industry Minna Knight said the resources sector had been hit by wage blowouts and long delays because of the increased union powers under Fair Work legislation.

"Resources-related construction projects are forecast to create 40,000 new Queensland jobs by 2015, with around $200 billion worth of investment either under way or in the state's pipeline," Ms Knight said.

"But these could face excessive wage blowouts, costly delays by unions stalling agreement negotiations, and illegal strike activity.

"In the recent Grocon-CFMEU dispute, we have seen construction unions openly ignore court orders to return to work and ... cause reckless damage to important developments."


A SURGEON banned from operating at one of Melbourne's top private hospitals due to patient safety concerns is free to continue operating in other hospitals

His averages  give clear cause for concern

Cabrini Health stopped general surgeon Adam Skidmore performing colorectal surgery last year - but the ban does not extend to other hospitals.

Mr Skidmore strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Cabrini Health is also seeking to extend the ban on Mr Skidmore to exclude him from performing major upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery.

That decision has been delayed after Mr Skidmore was granted a Supreme Court injunction to defer the decision until next month.

But despite Cabrini's move, which the hospital said was made "in the interests of patient safety", Mr Skidmore is still working unrestricted at the Epworth, Linacre Private, Sandringham and Frankston hospitals.

None of the hospitals or Mr Skidmore would comment when contacted by the Herald Sun while the case was before the court.

But patient advocates say hospitals should be forced to make restrictions public, while Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson said doctors should be obliged to reveal work bans to all their employers.

Court documents show Cabrini's executive director of medical services, Associate Professor Simon Woods, told Mr Skidmore on April 5 that a review of his patients at Malvern had raised concerns.

"Unless I can be persuaded otherwise I believe that the appropriate course of action is to limit your clinical privileges to exclude major upper GI surgery," he said.

Associate Prof Woods cited four patients of particular concern, including a woman who had a gastric band removed and ended up in intensive care and in hospital for 38 days.

"This is a highly unusual outcome for a procedure normally characterised by an overnight stay," he said.

Mr Skidmore voluntarily suspended all his lists at Cabrini from April 10.

He asked for a review of the decision and complained he had not been afforded procedural fairness or time to defend "these serious allegations".

Mr Skidmore argued his data appeared skewed because he dealt with his most serious and complex cases at Cabrini as it was the only hospital available to him with an intensive care unit.

"Looking at length of stay alone ... is an unhelpful indicator of the performance of the surgeon," his lawyers wrote to the hospital.

The court file contains the terms of reference for the clinical review which states: "Mr Skidmore's case work at Malvern continues to be associated with a long length of stay."

It said that, in 2 1/2 years, 11 of Mr Skidmore's patients had required tracheostomy or ventilation for more than 96 hours.

"This is only exceeded by two cardiothoracic surgeons," the document said.

"The next highest in terms of GI surgeons is four patients."

For surgery on stomach, duodenum and oesophagus cancers it claimed Mr Skidmore's patients had an average stay seven days longer than the hospital's busiest surgeon.

A letter to Mr Skidmore before the court said the hospital needed to "put the safety and quality of patient care above all other considerations" and would restrict his practice "in the interests of patient safety".

The operators of Epworth and Linacre Hospitals confirmed Mr Skidmore is under no restrictions.

Frankston and Sandringham hospitals would not comment on the surgeon's operating privileges, but Alfred Health - which runs Sandringham - said no major upper gastrointestinal surgery took place there.

Australian Patients Association chief Stephen Mason said a doctor's track record should be public so patients could make informed decisions about treatment.


Cancer patient waits two days before admission in Canberra hospital

A CANCER patient suffering severe breathing difficulties waited for two days in Canberra Hospital's emergency department before being admitted to a ward.

Grandmother Margaret Rees spent at least 10 hours of this time in a corridor, hospital records show. "It was horrible," the 72-year-old Pearce woman said.

Records show Mrs Rees arrived at the emergency department one Sunday morning in July and was not placed in a ward until the following Monday night.

A Health Directorate spokeswoman said the hospital regretted any distress Mrs Rees may have experienced as a result of the 33-hour delay in the ED.

The spokeswoman said the average waiting time across the past three months for a person to move to an inpatient bed in a ward was 1.79 hours.

About 190 people a day were arriving at the ED during the period when Mrs Rees turned up, many with respiratory conditions.

"The access block was high due to the number of presentations," the hospital spokeswoman said.

Mrs Rees arrived at the ED suffering a narrowed airway, medically known as chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

She said that when she finally was admitted she spent a week in hospital.

While hospital records say an ED medical officer looked at Mrs Rees at 3.56pm on the first day, the same records also say the decision to admit her was not made until six minutes past midnight.

Mrs Rees said toward the end of her wait for admission - on day two - she was taken to a ward, but after several minutes she was returned to the corridor again because staff had confused her with someone else.  "This was when I broke down crying," she said.

Also at about this time, Mrs Rees said she agreed to the humiliating experience of baring her naked backside in the public corridor to have a vital injection because there was no where else to do it.

ACT opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson labelled the elderly woman's case "appalling".

"The new emergency department waiting time figures again confirm that under ACT Labor the ACT's health system has gone from being one of the best in the country to one of the worst," Mr Hanson said.

The hospital maintained Mrs Rees spent 10 hours and six minutes in the corridor, and the remainder of the time in the proper waiting room or the acute section of the ED.

Mrs Rees and her family heartily disputed this, saying she spent well over 20 hours of her wait in the corridor.

She and her family also said they counted more than 20 people waiting in the same corridor.

ACT Labor is under increasing pressure about the Canberra Hospital in the lead up to the territory elections on October 20.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher this past week pledged to open 72 new beds over four years, including 40 general inpatient beds and six intensive care beds as well as extra beds for home care.

Labor's promise of more beds as well as doctors and nurses will cost $74 million.

The Liberals have put forward an urgent care clinics policy, which would put clinics in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin which would be open 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hospital emergency department's reputation was partly disfigured by a data doctoring scandal this year, in which up to 11,700 records were deliberately manipulated.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Dodgy surgeons continuing to operate?

say it isn't so!