Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dud public servants paid to go away: audit report

The above picture of a brown-skinned person with an African hairstyle accompanied the lead to the article below on the front page of the SMH. It was apparently intended to illustrate a dud employee. Reverberations to come?

Dud public servants are being given taxpayer-funded golden handshakes or generous early retirements because departments do not want to deal properly with under-performers, a new government audit has found.

A long-anticipated Australian National Audit Office report on so-called "performance management" processes for public servants found between 14 and 30 per cent of employees in some of Canberra's biggest government departments believed their bosses dealt effectively with under-performing colleagues, with significant areas of improvement identified.

A long-standing frustration for many public servants, the audit considered performance management processes in a range of departments and agencies, including the Australian Tax Office, the departments of the Attorney-General, Veterans' Affairs, Social Services, Industry, Innovation and Science, Agriculture, IP Australia and Canberra's National Film and Sound Archive.

Social Services had the highest number of staff found to be "less than effective" between 2012-13 and 205-16, with 338 employees or 3.06 per cent for the period. Among that group 19.2 per cent had been rated less than effective more than once.

The Attorney-General's department had 176 staff identified for performance management in the period, 2.73 per cent of its total workforce. Veterans' Affairs had 149 staff in the category, of which 10 per cent had been rated less than effective more than once.

Agriculture and Water Resources had 173 staff found to be under-performing, or 0.92 per cent of its workforce, of which 18.5 per cent were repeat poor performers. The Tax Office had 408 staff in the category, or 0.67 per cent of its workforce, with 7.6 per cent rated ineffective more than once.

The report said performance gaps could be difficult to identify for some of the types of work commonly done within the public service, including in areas of policy development and research. It said some staff took sick leave during performance management processes.

"It is not uncommon for employees undergoing under-performance processes to access certified sick leave as either an avoidance technique or because undergoing the procedure itself can exacerbate underlying medical conditions (particularly mental health conditions) or create stress-related conditions," the report said.

"From the manager's and agency's perspective this results in a drawn-out, complex process with difficult judgements to be made about how to best to progress the case."

Dealing with dud public servants isn't a new challenge for government.

A 1920 royal commission report held by the National Archives found "manifestly incompetent" bureaucrats who had been hanging around for years were next to impossible to dislodge from their jobs, labelling them "decent duffers".

The report, tabled in Parliament this week, warned some public servants identified for performance management took advantage of official processes, "including making allegations of bullying and harassment against their manager".

"Under-performance is generally not effectively dealt with in performance management processes, including during the probation period in most agencies, and structured under-performance processes have been infrequently used."

Senior managers had often avoided addressing staff under-performance because of a lack of incentives, support and their own capability.

Despite being common across the public service, the report said probation periods were generally not used "to robustly test the suitability of newly appointed employees", other than at the ATO and the Film and Sound Archive.

The report said the causes of under-performance included personal problems, physical and mental health issues, misconduct including minor absenteeism or behavioural issues, ineffective training and recruitment processes that fail to identify candidates with the capabilities for the job.

"Most agencies could streamline their underperformance procedures to remove repetition and prescription while still ensuring procedural fairness, although provisions in three agencies' enterprise agreements restrict flexibility in this regard.

"In addition, some agency procedures contain requirements that are in excess of those required by legislation or regulation for senior executive service or non-ongoing employees. Not all agencies have transparent procedures for their senior executive service employees, and probation procedures could be improved in all eight agencies," the report said.

Former employment minister Eric Abetz said slack public servants were wasting taxpayer funds and departmental bosses needed to take action.

"Taxpayers expect the public service to be lean, efficient and focused on delivery – not to allow for professional slackers who have turned underperformance into a victimhood industry at huge expense to the taxpayer," the Liberal senator said.

"Instead of this 'job for life' mentality that exists in many APS agencies, the public service should be refocused to become outcomes based and see underperformers managed more effectively – including a preparedness to let staff go."


A shocking government hospital

Night nurses at a Lismore hospital where a NSW mother died of shocking neglect regularly drugged patients, falsified observation checks, played computer games or slept to pass the time on their shifts, a former nurse at the facility has explosively claimed.

The whistle-blower, who did not want to give her real name for fear of retribution, told the horrific treatment in Lismore Base Hospital's Adult Mental Health Unit that resulted in Miriam Merten's death on June 3, 2014 was far from an isolated incident during her time working there due to corner cutting and inappropriate practices among some nurses.

Northern NSW Local Health District has confirmed to that four inpatients died at the facility between 2005 and 2013.

Ms Merten, who was drugged and stripped naked, died eight days after being admitted as an inpatient to the AMHU in mid-2014, court documents revealed.

A coroner's report, dated September 2016, found she died from "traumatic and hypoxic brain injury caused by numerous falls and the self-beatings of her head ... not done with the intention to taking her own life".

Ms Merten died as a result of "about 24" falls she had while locked alone in a seclusion room, according to documents published in the occupational division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The seclusion room, which is three by four metres in dimension, held no furniture except for a mattress on the floor.

Her tragic passing is now the centre of disciplinary proceedings brought by the Health Care Complaints Commission against Christine Borthistle, a former senior nurse at AMHU who was rostered on the nights of the first and second of June. The public release of the court documents and CCTV of Ms Merten's final fatal fall from inside AMHU have also sparked two government-backed reviews.

"(Miriam) used to bang her head from migraines", the former sister said, who told she had spent years caring for Ms Merten at AMHU.

Court documents revealed Ms Merten was admitted to AMHU 58 times between 1990 until mid-2014.

"Miriam was never violent. She was just delirious,” the former night nurse said. “I loved her dearly. All she ever wanted was a cup of tea. I was horrified (by her death). I don't think she should have died. It could have been prevented if she had been given a little bit of compassion instead of being manhandled."

The whistleblower quit her almost decade-long post with AMHU in disgust well before Ms Merten's death – so is unable to comment on whether practices have changed in recent years.

She said she left after being "burnt out fighting the system" when her countless complaints about patient neglect and work protocol abuses fell on deaf ears.

She said she worked with nurse Borthistle and was told about the night Ms Merten died.

"Obviously (Borthistle) had a shocking night. She was a good nurse but she had no experience," the whistleblower said, explaining that Borthistle had 40-years experience but no professional training dealing with mental health patients.

The whistleblower confirmed Borthistle died just days before the findings of the tribunal's disciplinary proceedings.

On April 12, the tribunal banned Borthistle from, but not limited to, providing services as an assistant in nursing and mental health services.

The whistleblower said the fears Ms Merten's family expressed that her tragic death was not an isolated incident are “sadly true”. She remembers at least 30 to 40 patients who were drugged, stripped naked and locked for hours in the seclusion cell like Ms Merten.

"If we couldn't get them (patients) to sleep and they were screaming like hell you'd chuck them in the single room; in the cell," she said.

"I was told don't go in there to do hourly checks because, 'You might wake them up'. The priority was to mop up the shit and forget about your patient."

The nurse, who had 38 years of psychiatric nursing experience, described AMHU as being "a jail" and said patients would be left for days in the clothes they arrived in or stripped naked if no hospital clothes were available.

"(The hospital) provided PJs but there was always a shortage of PJs and the girls had to have doctor's gowns. They'd walk around in Hepatitis C clothes until the nurses did the washing for them," she said.

She said she was aware of some patients who were "locked up" for almost three years and witnessed four patients die in AMHU – two deaths and two suicides. She added that at least one of the deaths occurred while the patient was in the seclusion cell.

"I've seen patients in the cell for two weeks and they were bad. That was the only way we could contain them. We've found broken teeth. Not false teeth, but real teeth," she said.

As well as locking up patients, the whistle-blower said it was common practice for nurses, particular those rostered on the night shift, to lie about completing rounds to check on patients and rely on the "nurses upper hand" – topping up their medication.

She said some nurses would sit behind the Perspex-screened room of the nurses' station - which was the size of a double bed - and just "tick, tick, tick" the five hour rounds as completed on the paper in front of them. Asked how she knew this, she admitted: "I did it too."

She said night duty staff get "the best shifts" as there is no management around and so got away with anything. She said it was common place for night shift nurses to "tranquilise" patients to get them to sleep long enough to be awoken just as the morning nurses arrived.

She said, sadly such doping seemed necessary as some patients were extremely violent and staffing levels would mean you couldn't check on patients if there weren't two nurses awake at the same time. However, she said it wouldn't work on every patient.

"Miriam was a case where you couldn't. She had a tolerance, she'd walk through it," she said.

As well as failing to check on patients, some night nurses would ignore patients who stood before them banging on the Perspex glass. These nurses were known as "office sitters" among other staff.

"Night nurses just used to sit on their bum … and play computer games. It was like (they were) playing poker machines," she said.

One NSW mother, who spoke to on the condition of anonymity, said she had witnessed firsthand the cruelty and abuse of the AMHU nurses when her son was admitted as a patient 18 months ago.

She claims her son received nearly "non-existent care" during his month-long stint at AMHU and the abuse from nurse staff was so concerning she has made two formal complaints to the Lismore Base Hospital. She is yet to receive a response past the hospital's initial automated email.

"He was in there about three-and-a-half weeks a month. He had no support whatsoever," she said.

"His girlfriend came to visit and he was treated deplorably and made fun of by staff. He was abused whilst she was there."

She claims one time during a visit with her son she tried to initiate a conversation with one of the registered nurses over concerns she had that they were planning to release him too soon. She claims she was abruptly rebutted by the nurse who claimed AMHU "is not a motel".

"The behaviour is so bad that sometimes you're speechless," she said.

"They are more interested in being on social media or on eBay than they are in the patients anyway shape or form. They don't even care from a human perspective. They just treat the patients with contempt and laughter."

She also claimed one of her sons was left with a broken mobile phone after he threatened to show a photo he'd taken of a nurse on eBay during a shift to the hospital CEO. She says her son's phone was confiscated by staff and returned smashed.

"So many times I complained and I asked questions and they don't want you to ask questions. It just boggles my mind, it really does. It makes me sick to the stomach," she said.

"Even in a jail if you needed immediate first aid, you'd get that I'm sure."

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Health District Wayne Jones told that data showed four inpatient deaths had occurred in the Lismore Mental Health Unit between 2005 and 2013.

"Unfortunately, Mental Health units can experience incidences of patient death, either through medical emergencies or self-harm," Mr Jones said.

"Any unexpected patient death is investigated through internal review and referred to the NSW Coroner.

"The use of seclusion for patients in Mental Health facilities in NSW is always a last resort and only used where clinically necessary.

"The seclusion rate for patients at Lismore in 2016 was on average 8.1 episodes per 1,000 bed days."

Mr Jones said Mental Health Services at Lismore Base Hospital had more than halved the patient seclusion rate in the last five years.

"The treatment Ms Merten received was unacceptable. The Northern NSW Local Health District took immediate steps following this tragic incident," Mr Jones said.

"The LHD also reinforced that staff at the Lismore Adult Mental Health Unit must adhere to NSW Health protocols on the use of seclusion and treatment of patients.

"The Northern NSW LHD welcomes the mental health review announced today and we will be working with the independent expert panel during its investigation."


New maps show the risk of sea level rises to Australian cities

Another Greenie prophecy that will fail like all others before it

SAY sayonara to Sydney airport, farewell to Fremantle and bye to Byron Bay.

A series of maps has graphically illustrated how Australia could be affected by climate change and rising sea levels. And it looks like many of our major towns and cities could be getting a lot soggier.

Hobart Airport would be underwater, Melbourne’s Southbank submerged and the WACA in Perth would be inundated.

Famous sea side resorts like Byron Bay, Port Douglas, Noosa and the Gold Coast are in danger of seeing the sea get a whole lot closer for comfort.

A climate expert has said rising sea levels globally could displace “tens of millions of people”.

The new maps come from Costal Risk Australia run by Western Australia business management consultants NGIS. The data is fished from the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA to show which areas will be at risk from a “business as usual” scenario of a 2 metre sea-level rise by 2100.

Just by putting in your suburb name into the Coastal Risk Australia, you can see if you area is at risk of flooding.

Website co-creator Nathan Eaton said that with more than 80 per cent of Australians living near the coast, it was critical for people to appreciate what rising sea levels in the decades to come could mean for their communities.

However, in some areas its likely even a 2 metre sea rise will be surpassed. Climate scientists have pointed to parts of northern and Western Australia where rises could be higher.

The Torres Strait Islands have experienced regular king tides, an area which rarely got any of the monster tides in the past.

Professor John Church from the University of NSW’S Climate Change Research Centre said flooding to the measure forecast would cause catastrophic problems for many Australians.

“With business as usual emissions, the questions are when, rather than if, we will cross a 2 metre sea level rise,” he told Fairfax. “This scenario would result in major catastrophes and displace many tens of millions of people around the world.”

One of the worst affected areas would be Cairns with vast tracts of the city’s CBD and suburbs at risk from rising sea levels.

But Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over the maps. He said claims Cairns could be under the ocean by the end of the century were “outlandish”.

“I’m someone who takes environmental issues very seriously,” he told the Cairns Post. “But if we’re going to run around every day because some group comes up with some wild or outlandish or extreme prognosis — and we don’t have any verification on it — then we’ll just spend the next so many years going crazy.”

He said the decisions made by the council were based on the “best scientific evidence we’ve got” and that the city worked with the Local Government Association of Queensland’s sea-level adaptation unit.

Earlier this month, climate scientists at the University of Melbourne warned an agreement reached in Paris to hold global average temperatures rise to under 2C above pre industrial levels would inevitably fail.

Last week, US researchers said sea levels driven by global warming were on track to dramatically boost the frequency of coastal flooding worldwide by mid-century, especially in tropical regions.

A 10 -20cm jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 — a conservative forecast — would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Major centres such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found.

But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa.

Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected.

“We are 95 per cent confident that an added 5 — 10 centimetres will more than double the frequency of flooding in the tropics,” lead author Sean Vitousek, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told AFP.


Woof! Peer review in action

MOVE aside quokkas and black swans, Perth is now home to the world’s smartest dog, at least on paper.

Local “academic” Dr Olivia Doll — also known as Staffordshire terrier Ollie — sits on the editorial boards of seven international medical journals and has just been asked to review a research paper on the management of tumours.

Her impressive curriculum vitae lists her current role as senior lecturer at the Subiaco College of Veterinary Science and past associate of the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies — which is code for her earlier life in the dog refuge.

Ollie’s owner, veteran public health expert Mike Daube, decided to test how carefully some journals scrutinised their editorial reviewers, by inventing Dr Doll and making up her credentials.

The five-year-old pooch has managed to dupe a range of publications specialising in drug abuse, psychiatry and respiratory medicine into appointing her to their editorial boards.

Dr Doll has even been fast-tracked to the position of associate editor of the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine.

Several journals have published on their websites a supplied photo of Dr Doll, which is actually of a bespectacled Kylie Minogue.

Professor Daube said none of them smelt a rat, despite Dr Doll’s listed research interests in “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” and “the role of domestic canines in promoting optimal mental health in ageing males”.

Today Ollie is being featured in a more reputable publication, the Medical Journal of Australia’s Insight magazine, which is looking at the surge in journals which charge desperate would-be researchers up to $3000 to get their studies published.

“While this started as something lighthearted, I think it is important to expose shams of this kind which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries,” Professor Daube said.

He said the authors would be gutted to know their papers were being reviewed by a dog, who often needed to be offered a treat before she dragged herself in front of the laptop. “It gives all researchers paws for thought,” Professor Daube said.

Dr Doll refused to comment unless she was taken for walkies.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

PB said...

Yeah, that sounds like a Public Hospital MHU. They don't provide any care at all now, just incarceration. Up here its all drug-induced psychoses in Islanders and Aboriginals. No one sees the point anymore.