Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bureaucracy reigns supreme at Gold Coast hospital

Too bad about the doctors

A BALI bombings surgeon has been sacked as director of surgery at Gold Coast Hospital after leading a doctor revolt over allegations including a "dangerous" bed shortage and workplace bullying and intimidation.

Neurosurgeon Dr Teresa Withers and fellow senior doctors have hired high-powered lawyers to fight hospital management after she was dumped from the post she had held for 12 years.

Dr Withers, whom former premier Peter Beattie flew to Darwin to treat victims after the 2005 Bali bombings, had been raising allegations of mismanagement at the Gold Coast Hospital which she and other doctors claim is endangering patient safety.

They say their 'serious concerns' about issues including a "life and death" acute bed shortage and "a culture of fear and intimidation" have been swept aside, and complaining doctors sacked.

But the hospital has denied sacking Dr Withers, saying she was simply restructured out of her job.  CEO Ron Calvert said claims Dr Withers had been sacked were "simply untrue".

Mr Calvert said a restructure had been needed because the hospital was moving to a new $1.8 billion facility at Parkwood, with five new services including cardiac surgery, neonatal intensive care and radiation oncology.

"As a result of this necessary restructure a number of new roles have been created, particularly at a clinical management level, and others including the Director of Surgery role will no longer exist," he said.

The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday doctors had documented more than 20 "near misses" at the hospital under controversial measures to meet emergency department targets.

Earlier this year, 50 doctors unhappy with Mr Calvert's management petitioned the local health board for a crisis meeting.  But they say that despite 90 doctors attending the meeting and passing four resolutions, including "the right to work without fear of intimidation", their concerns were dismissed by the board.

Lawyers for the doctors have now written to the board calling for an independent investigation. They have threatened to go to the Crime and Misconduct Commission and Healthy Quality and Complaints Commission unless their demand is met.

Dr Withers' husband, pediatrician Dr Stephen Withers, said the hospital was a "train wreck".  He said a shortage of beds for acute care patients had been "continually" raised with Mr Calvert but they were still being put at risk by being discharged too early to "non-monitored" wards.

Patient safety was also being compromised by decreasing numbers of nurses, Dr Withers said.

He said Mr Calvert was embarking on a major restructure of the hospital without consultation with senior doctors, at the same time as the hospital was preparing for the upheaval of moving into a new $1.8 billion facility at Parklands.

"This will be one of the biggest hospital relocations ever undertaken in Australia and at the same time, we are undergoing a major restructure - it's truly bizarre," he said. "This is a $1 billion organisation being run by someone who seems to be completely unaccountable to anyone and an inexperienced board that doesn't seem to give a crap.  "I think the board is failing the people of the Gold Coast abysmally."

Dr Withers said the doctors' only interest was patient care.  "We're really worried about the quality of health care on the Gold Coast and the safety of patients," he said.

"Many of us are in fear of our jobs if we speak up and the treatment given to my wife bears that out. She is a good person, she works hard and she tries to help people and for that, she's sacked."

Mr Calvert said the director of surgery position would "no longer exist" as part of the restructure but staff who had appropriate qualifications could apply for new "executive clinical director" positions.

"Like any organisation going through significant transformation, we understand that these changes are difficult for all staff," he said.

"While we take all concerns extremely seriously and are committed to a full investigation to ensure continuous improvement, we are hearted by recent evidence that shows we are improving health outcomes for the Gold Coast community."

Mr Calvert said an independent review had been ordered into concerns raised by doctors about emergency department targets.

Board chairman Ian Langdon said Gold Coast Health was delivering "outstanding service ... and too often the ongoing dedication of staff is forgot or undervalued whilst others air their disagreements".


Why have we got a peanut running a hospital?  I quote:

Ian [Langdon]  has a strong background in agribusiness, food production and marketing. Ian was appointed as Chairman of the Peanut Company of Australia in March 2008 after joining the Board in March 2005. He was Chairman of Australian Co-operative Foods Ltd (the Dairy Farmers Group) from 1989 until its sale in November 2008. Ian was also a director of Rabobank Australia Limited 1995-2004, Pivot Limited between 1993 and 2003 and Delta Electricity 2000- 2006.

Sydney Muslim sheikh admits sending abusive letters to dead Afghanistan veterans' families

A man accused of sending abusive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan has formally pleaded guilty in a Sydney court.  Man Monis, who also uses the name Sheik Haron, sent the letters between November 2007 and August 2009.

A court has previously heard the letters criticised Australia's involvement in Afghanistan and labelled the soldiers murderers.

Monis sent letters to the families of seven soldiers killed in action, as well as one man who died in the 2009 Marriott Hotel bombing in Indonesia.

Bree Till received a letter in March 2009, less than a fortnight after her husband Brett died in Southern Afghanistan.  It opened with condolences, before becoming abusive.

"This man accusing my husband of being a child killer whilst dictating how I should raise my children," she said outside court today.  "The fact that there was any question as to whether this was right or wrong, that was difficult."

Monis has pleaded guilty to 12 counts of using a postal service to offend on the grounds of recklessness.

His co-accused, Amirah Droudis, has also pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting Monis, after she sent an item of mail in May 2008.

Monis gained notoriety by chaining himself to a railing outside a Sydney court in 2009 in protest against the charges he was facing.

In February, he also lost a High Court challenge to the charges, after claiming they were unconstitutional.

The case had been seen as an important test of the implied right to freedom of political speech in the Constitution.

Monis left court today with two fingers in the air, signifying the peace sign.  [Maybe!]


How the West was lost - zero jobs growth for Labor's heartland

FEDERAL and state governments have failed to create any new private sector jobs in Labor's heartland of western Sydney since 2006, with the region facing an unemployment crisis, a damning new report reveals.

And they have been warned that, without policy to address it, the western suburbs face a "jobs deficit" of up to 500,000 places by 2051.

The statistics are contained in a report by the Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

The report covers the period of the last year of the Howard government and most of Labor's state and federal governments.

It paints a damning indictment of government policy failure in the key seats both Labor and the Coalition have to win to form government.

The report was released before the government's emergency economic statement which admitted the national jobless rate next year would rise to 6.25 per cent - a high not seen since 2002. It reveals successive jobs targets for the western Sydney region, including Parramatta, set by state governments between 2006 and 2011 had failed to be met.


Car watchdog 'toothless' on VW fault

It's in the pocket of the car-makers

Australia's car safety regulator has been labelled a toothless tiger after it failed to conduct a full investigation of dozens of complaints from Volkswagen owners, and instead handed them over to the car company.

Wayne Belford, whose fiancee Melissa Ryan died on the Monash Freeway in 2011 after her Golf appeared to suddenly lose power, is furious with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport after it notified him that it had found "no evidence to support a systemic issue" with Volkswagen vehicles. This is despite Volkswagen recalling almost 34,000 cars in June due to a problem with its direct-shift gearboxes.

"The department is a toothless tiger," Mr Belford told Fairfax Media. "Why have a department if they are given anecdotal evidence and they haven't the gumption to do an investigation and instead just pass it back to Volkswagen to handle in-house? In terms of accountability and recourse, the department is a waste of time."

Since Fairfax Media's investigation of Volkswagen vehicle faults began in May, 62 owners filled out the forms on the department's website to notify it of a safety issue. But instead of investigating, the department told Mr Belford it had done an "initial assessment" and found no systemic issue.

"The complaints received cover a wide range of different vehicle types, with different problems occurring at different points in the vehicles' lives," it wrote to Mr Belford.

If it had found evidence of "a wide scale or systemic issue", the department said it would ask Volkswagen to investigate. A manufacturer-led investigation is in line with Australia's recall process, a system largely self-regulated by the car companies.

A coroner's inquest on Ms Ryan's death triggered a massive response from hundreds of frustrated and angry Volkswagen owners who had suffered the same sudden deceleration - often in busy traffic and at intersections - that Melissa Ryan may have experienced. Despite issuing recalls for the DSG problem in countries such as Japan, China and Malaysia, Volkswagen ignored the Australian market.

Of the 300 Volkswagen drivers who came forward to Fairfax Media reporting a sudden loss of power, 88 per cent were driving cars with automatic transmissions and the rest were manuals, like Melissa Ryan's car. The department and Volkswagen has done nothing to address the concerns of manual drivers.

The coroner, who recently deferred her finding on Ms Ryan's death, has said she will write to the department seeking information on "specific action" being taken to investigate "numerous complaints" about Volkswagen vehicles that may have relevance to Ms Ryan's case. The coroner is yet to decide whether to include evidence from 30 owners of manual Volkswagens who experienced sudden loss of power in dangerous situations.

Mr Belford has collected statutory declarations from these drivers, which he says are "very expansive and damning" of Volkswagen.

Volkswagen Australia said it had not been asked by the department to investigate, but it was contacting the 62 owners who had complained to the regulator. Models recalled in June include Polo, Golf, Jetta, Passat, Caddy, Audi A1 and A3, Octavia and Superb. Volkswagen has promised the DSG problems will be rectified.

But the recall has been a frustrating process for many Volkswagen owners who face a long backlog and have found it hard to get through on customer phone lines. Few have had the faulty part replaced.

Many feel the recall was too narrow and have missed out, especially those with the original versions of the six-speed DSG wet clutch.

"There are still quite a lot of unhappy people … who are basically being told their problems are just a character of the car," said Gavin Smith, Volkswagen enthusiast and moderator of an online Volkswagen forum.

Volkswagen Australia spokesman Karl Gehling urged owners with problems to contact Volkswagen.

The department has consistently refused to answer questions about its handling of the Volkswagen faults and, specifically, why the company was not pushed to recall its cars in Australia despite recalls in other countries.


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