Friday, August 04, 2006


All those bureaucrat salaries have to be paid!

The parents of a toddler who has become deaf in both ears were told by NHS bosses that he could have the hearing restored in one ear, but not in both. However, after The Times asked North Dorset Primary Care Trust (PCT) to justify the decision, it relented and agreed to operate on both ears. The trust denied that the call from The Times had any influence on the decision, which it says it had been considering carefully for some time.

Kirsten and James Harvey, from Stalbridge, Dorset, were relieved that they would not have to spend 8,000 pounds of their own money so that Matthew, who is 2, could hear in both ears. The trust had argued that one cochlear implant would meet Matthew's clinical needs, but that two was a matter of parental choice, for which it was not prepared to pay.

"The benefits of having both implants done together are immense," Mrs Harvey said. "They do this in other countries in Europe, but not universally in the UK. "Matthew's whole development depends on him being able to hear and we think the money should have been available in the first place." Yesterday she said that she was delighted by the latest decision, and said that it should be an example to other trusts around the country, many of which are unwilling to pay for both implants.

Julie Brinton, head of the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre at Southampton University, where Matthew will have his operation, said: "Cochlear implants are a wonderful, amazing technology. They transform people's lives. They're unbelievably important. And having two, rather than one, is an advantage. "They can hear where sound is coming from better, which can be important in things like crossing the road. And they can distinguish voices better against background noise. "Adults who have had two implants say that it's like being back in a three-dimensional world. If a child were simply hard of hearing, you wouldn't dream of just fitting one hearing aid. You would fit two. "We would very much like to give Matthew two implants - it's the right way to go. But we understand the PCT's position. They have difficult decisions to make and they argue that if the money is spent giving one child two implants, another may not get an implant at all."

The procedure is expensive - 36,750 pounds for one implant, of which 15,500 goes on the hardware, and the rest on the operation and diagnostic and follow-up care. If a second implant is fitted at the same time, the extra cost is about 8,000. But if it is fitted later, during a second operation, the cost is much higher.

Ms Brinton said that research in Britain had shown that adults with two implants were better able to locate the source of sounds, and had improved sound perception. The data on children came mainly from research conducted in the United States. This indicated that children given two implants before the age of 3 achieved normal language levels, whereas in the past they would have had to use sign language to communicate.


Fewer procedures, longer waits in Queensland public hospitals

The number of elective operations performed by major Brisbane public hospitals has fallen 16 per cent in the past five years as new figures released yesterday showed a 150 per cent jump in people waiting longer than required. During the past five years, the Beattie Government says it has spent more than $200 million on reducing waiting lists on top of claims it has spent record amounts on health in every budget. Yesterday's figures show the increase in elective surgery funding has delivered fewer operations and longer waits.

According to the latest "Elective Surgery Waiting List Report", 314 people were waiting more than the specified 30 days for urgent category 1 surgery, up almost 150 per cent from 128 people at the same time last year. There were 2703 people waiting more than the prescribed 90 days for semi-urgent category 2 operations, up almost 110 per cent. The 6462 people waiting longer than 365 days for less urgent operations represented a 7 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson was not available to answer questions about the report yesterday. However, in a statement Mr Robertson claimed "a significant increase in demand for life-saving emergency surgery saw the total number of Queenslanders waiting for elective surgery rise by 791". "What these statistics reflect is that our hospitals are busier than ever and are treating more patients than ever before," the statement said. "However, significant on-going growth in patient demand for life-saving emergency surgery continues to affect elective surgery opportunities in our hospitals. "The Beattie Government has undertaken a number of steps to address the challenges facing public hospitals to improve elective surgery performance. "And we're starting to see positive results from the extra $20 million we provided in March to support long wait reduction initiatives."

AMA Queensland president Dr Zelle Hodge said the 16 per cent reduction in surgical activity was "consistent with what our members are telling us". "Royal Brisbane Hospital is cutting 30 elective surgery lists a week because they have insufficient theatre nurses," Dr Hodge said.

Opposition health spokesman Dr Bruce Flegg said the latest figures showed more Queenslanders are waiting for surgery and fewer operations were being done compared to last year. Dr Flegg said, compared with last year, there are 1953 more people on the waiting lists, 1336 less operations and 1970 people waiting beyond the medically recommended time for treatment. "The Government claim to have increased spending on more doctors, more beds and more operations but the figures show less operations," Dr Flegg said. "The money is being spent on appalling management and waste. They have not fixed the system in Queensland and nothing has changed."

One waiting list client, former truck driver Annette Taylor, 41, said yesterday her two-year wait for back surgery was becoming unbearable. Ms Taylor, of Thornlands, said twice in the past two months, her pain has been so severe her local GPs have called ambulances to take her to hospital for urgent treatment and on both occasions she was turned away. "I believe nobody should have to wait more than six months for any operation. I would never have felt this pain this bad if it had been done in six months," she said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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