Sunday, October 21, 2007


Five current articles from Australia below:

Another shocking Australian public hospital

With official coverup, of course

TWO sisters told yesterday how they kidnapped their mother from the troubled Hervey Bay Hospital because they feared she was starving to death. The sisters, who are nurses, said they were horrified at the treatment their mother, Marjorie Holland, was receiving after suffering a stroke in November last year. Cecile Lyons and Michelle Downes, 51-year-old twins, said they tricked hospital staff into thinking they were taking their mother out for fresh air.

"My partner John (Reason) was waiting in the carpark for a quick getaway," Ms Lyons said. "I took her out in an armchair with wheels. We ditched the chair in the carpark and sped off to the Royal in Brisbane. "We had no choice. She was lapsing into unconsciousness."

The twins accused some hospital staff of incompetence in a formal complaint in which they alleged their 76-year-old mother was dehydrated and starving. Other more serious allegations cannot be reported on legal advice. They said their mother did not see a doctor for days and was not put on a drip until her eighth day in hospital.

In hospital Mrs Holland developed deep vein thrombosis and later had her leg amputated at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Mrs Lyons said she and her sister were the first to diagnose the DVT. "It was a nightmare," Ms Lyons said. "She was left to dehydrate and starve as a treatment for stroke. She did not have food for 17 days yet the hospital told us my mother was happy with her care."

An expert panel set up by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission to investigate the sisters' complaints agreed Mrs Holland should have been given intravenous fluids earlier. The panel led by the University of Queensland's Professor Ian Scott, also found that "heparin (anticoagulant) therapy should have been given from the date of admission". However, earlier treatment "was unlikely to have changed the outcome for Mrs Holland", Professor Scott said. The commission concluded that the care provided to Mrs Holland at Hervey Bay was "reasonable".

Mrs Holland, who suffered some brain damage, now lives in a NSW retirement village. There were findings against Hervey Bay Hospital in 2005 in the health inquiry headed by Geoff Davies, QC. The Courier-Mail understands several former patients have since received confidential settlements.


Australia: Government hospitals under fire for mistreating elderly

POOR care of the elderly in some hospitals is prompting nursing homes to photograph their patients before admission and as they leave. Aged patients are often discharged from hospital malnourished and with bed sores, a national survey of 370 nursing homes found. A majority of nursing homes said they experienced several cases every year of residents returning from hospital with ulcers and skin tears, but without acknowledgement in the hospital's clinical notes. The author of the study, Tracey McDonald, professor of ageing at the Australian Catholic University, said the numerous "compromised skin integrity" cases raised by nursing homes was "a very disturbing issue".

The reputation of some hospital staff was such that at least four nursing homes had taken to photographing their residents' skin before and after hospital stays to prove to relatives of the patient that the nursing home care was of good quality. Nursing home staff saw few attempts by hospital staff at preventing trauma or even treating wounds when they occur. "In fact, respondents [to the survey] perceive an attitude of mendacity and blame emanating from the hospitals . where some clinicians falsely accuse aged care homes of causing the wounds and even mislead families into blaming the aged care home."

Professor McDonald's report was commissioned by Aged Care Association Australia, which represents nursing homes, as a result of significant concerns about the condition of patients transferred between nursing homes and hospitals. The report assessed the detailed answers from 371 nursing homes who responded. A breakdown of the findings showed that NSW hospitals performed better than other states on most indicators, but poorly on medication arrangements for aged care patients leaving hospital. Inadequate or absent notification of drug requirements could lead to "dangerous" problems in such areas as the prescription of sedatives and psychotropic drugs for mental illness.

Poor nutrition of elderly patients was also at disturbing levels and while NSW reported fewer problems, the issue was still a cause for concern, with 40 per cent of nursing homes in large regional centres reporting residents with nutritional problems on return from hospitals. Another key issue was the timing of transfer of residents to aged care facilities, which said Professor McDonald, could often be late at night and at short notice, a confusing experience for people in their 80s or 90s.

Other shortcomings often mentioned were lack of patient records provided by the hospital on the patient's treatment, hampering the home's efforts to provide proper care of what could be life-threatening conditions. Poor care of mental health patients was also reported, with evidence suggesting that in some cases patients were sedated before departure from hospital, leaving them unsupervised and vulnerable at points in the transfer process.

The chief executive of the Aged Care Association, Rod Young, called for urgent action to avoid harm to vulnerable and confused patients which, he said, would inevitably end up "leading to death in some instances".


Negligent NSW public hospital staff doomed baby boy

GRIEF-stricken Fatima Abdallah should be celebrating her baby boy's four-month birthday this weekend - instead she is mourning his death and left wondering how a Sydney hospital failed to diagnose her son's life-threatening heart condition. Marwan Yahya died on June 19, five days after being sent home from Liverpool Hospital despite showing signs of a serious problem.

NSW Health has launched an investigation but his heartbroken mother contacted The Daily Telegraph yesterday desperate for authorities to explain the bungle. "It's been four months and I still haven't been told anything," a distraught Ms Abdallah said yesterday. "I keep calling the hospital but they brush me off and tell me to wait. I have a feeling they just want this to go away."

The first-time mum knew something was wrong with her little boy just hours after he was born. Marwan was blue around his mouth and fingers, breathing faintly and, as the hours passed, he refused to eat - just laying in his cot. Ms Abdallah said she asked nurses what was wrong but was told his condition was "normal". "I didn't enjoy those first few days with him because I was so worried. I knew something was wrong. I felt like they were treating me as if I had no idea," she said.

Her worst fears were confirmed when the two-day-old infant was sent home and started having seizures because his brain was starved of oxygen. After rushing back to Liverpool Hospital, Ms Abdallah and Marwan were transferred to the Children's Hospital Westmead, where tests revealed he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Doctors told the family that, had the condition been detected at birth, Marwan could possibly be alive today. "They had booked him on a flight to Melbourne where the operation is performed but when they found out how severe his brain damage was, there was nothing they could do," Ms Abdallah said. "We were told to say goodbye to him and they turned off the machines."

The harrowing ordeal follows a litany of hospital scandals that have embarrassed Health Minister Reba Meagher. South Western Sydney Health Service apologised to the family when they met with them yesterday. A health service spokeswoman said the disease that claimed Marwan can be "difficult to detect at birth". Ms Abdallah said she could not comprehend how doctors or nurses at Liverpool could have missed her son's condition. "He may still have been alive today if someone had listened to me," she said.


Man dies after old ambulance breaks down

Plenty of money for bureaucrats but no money for new vehicles

A MAN has died after paramedics from a broken-down ambulance were forced to run almost two blocks to try to revive him in Melbourne's southeast. Ambulance Employees Australia (AEU) general secretary Steve McGhie confirmed a 56-year-old man died from a cardiac arrest before paramedics could reach him at his Elwood home last night. Mr McGhie said an ambulance broke down about two blocks from the house about 6pm (AEST), forcing paramedics to run with life-saving equipment, including a defibrillator. But the man's heart had stopped by the time the paramedics arrived.

"The vehicle had 160,000 on its odometer - it should be retired ... even though the Government has assured Victorians that they are safe and secure," Mr McGhie said. "The ambulance had power failure and they couldn't keep it running. "They grabbed the defibrillators and the oxygen equipment and ran to the house. "They tried to resuscitate the man at the scene but were unsuccessful."

The death follows a bitter dispute between the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) and its members' union over "unsafe" vehicles. Paramedics last week said the MAS threatened them with $6000 fines unless they use the vehicles, which have exceeded their agreed service life of three years or 150,000km. About 45 Mercedes ambulances had exceeded their agreed lifespan, Mr McGhie said.

Mr McGhie called on Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews to get new ambulances on the road, saying it "was a sad state of affairs in Victoria" if paramedics are forced to run to save their patients. "This is the sixth incident in the last two weeks and the Government has to step in," he said. "They've got to get more vehicles."

Tim Pigot, spokesman for Mr Andrews, said it was an operational decision by the MAS of how they managed resources. "We have more than doubled funding for ambulance services across Victoria since 1999," Mr Pigot said. "This has resulted in an extra 738 paramedics and 101 ambulances on Victorian roads. "Victoria has the safest and best ambulance system in Australia." Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman James Howe said the service was investigating the incident.


Inert bureaucracy incapable of dealing with the sort of family problems they are set up to deal with

More "child welfare" destructiveness. They should sack all the Left-indoctrinated social workers and employ experienced mothers instead -- who would have learnt some commonsense from experience and who should at least be a lot less intimidatory. If the mother below had REALLY been a druggie, they would have had the kid back with her straight away. That is the firm rule of social workers worldwide -- because it shows how "non-judgmental" they are. Accusing normal middle-class families of "witchcraft" and the like is fine, however

All Michelle wants is what most mothers take for granted. To be able to tuck her seven-year-old son tightly into bed every night with a kiss and a fond "sleep tight". But for five long years, that has not happened often. For Michelle is the mother of Cameron, the autistic boy whose plight of being trapped for five years in an inappropriate respite centre for severely disabled and disturbed people in Hobart was raised in the Tasmanian Parliament on Thursday.

After a public furore yesterday, the State Government announced last night that Cameron would finally be leaving the Lutana facility where he has lived most of his young life this weekend to live with a foster family. The Government's Director of Children Services, Mark Byrne, said on Thursday that despite four years of trying, it was not possible for Cameron to live with his own family. Human Services Minister Lara Giddings wrote in a letter to Opposition Leader Will Hodgman in March that "after many efforts to support Cameron in his home environment" his mother had acknowledged "he could not return home as she was unable to care and support him".

It is these sort of official judgments and comments that make Michelle distraught, bewildered and angry. "I'd move heaven and earth to get Cameron living here with us," a tearful Michelle said yesterday. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish he was here with all of us. "And I've never said I won't have him. I just want him home."

The first Michelle and her partner knew about the uproar over Cameron's plight was when she looked at the newspaper yesterday morning. She could not believe what she read. First, that letters expressing dire concern about her son and his future had been circulating between ministers and within high levels of the Government for the past 12 months, without her being told. Second, that the Government was claiming Cameron's mother did not want him to return home. And finally, that allegations were being made that she was somehow a "troubled mother" with a dysfunctional lifestyle and a drug problem who had given Cameron a horrific start to life and who then rarely visited him while he was in care.

Michelle and her partner claim nothing could be further from the truth. It is why yesterday morning they rang Mr Hodgman -- who highlighted Cameron's predicament in Parliament this week after 11 months of government inaction -- and then got in touch with the Mercury. They wanted to tell their side of the story. And it is a very different one to that portrayed.

Instead of being a tale of abandonment and a callous lack of caring by a little boy's mother, it's a story of how battling families can become so worn-down and demoralised by government bureaucracy, bullying and inertia that they feel they no longer have any rights or say about their own child. Mixed in with that is a sorry saga of government departments failing to communicate with each other. And of a mother, fearing judgments were being made about her every time she visited her son or met Child Protection case managers, developing a reluctance to interact with government officials and disability workers about her own aspirations and wishes for Cameron.

But amid the sadness and lack of communication, there is also hope. Hope instilled by a close-knit Glenorchy family with little money but lots of resilience, desperately longing for nothing more than to have Cameron back living in their midst, alongside his four brothers and sisters. A shiny new boy's bicycle sits in the backyard of the red-brick home on a steep hill. It's the longed-for bike that Michelle and her partner gave to Cameron last weekend for his seventh birthday, when he came home for an afternoon visit after a birthday party organised by staff from the Lutana home at Hungry Jack's in Glenorchy. All the family were there to see Cameron, including his sister and brother. And there was the new bike, a big chocolate mudcake covered with candles -- and plenty of love and excitement.

A weepy Michelle shows photos of Cameron, a beaming smile on his face as he tried out his bike surrounded by family and friends. "We all love him to bits, he's such a gorgeous fantastic kid," Michelle's partner said. "Sure, he can be a handful, but Michelle's a great mother and she adores that kid -- we all do. "All this about him having troubled family life and Michelle having a drug problem, it's all just rubbish."

Michelle says she has never been on drugs or had a drug issue. She doesn't deny when she left Cameron at Lutana aged just under two that she was at her wit's end. He had just been diagnosed as autistic, she had a tiny baby and older boy to cope with too, her partner had just left her, and she was clinically depressed. Just after putting Cameron into respite care, for what his mother hoped would be just a short-term stay, she had a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. But since then, and since moving in with her partner to his Glenorchy home four years ago, life has become much more settled for Michelle and her extended family.

Cameron, a bright little boy who loves nothing better than curling the hair of visitors, is at Glenorchy Primary School, while his brother is a budding soccer star. Michelle has just got a part-time job working in a canteen, while her partner is a pensioner while he waits for a knee reconstruction next week. "We've always been battlers, but the kids come first," Michelle's partner said. "It's like that when Cameron comes to stay -- we take him out fishing on the boat or take him driving in the four-wheel-drive -- we'll do anything to help our kids."

Michelle angrily denies she has not visited Cameron for six months at a time and disputes court documents that say she has refused to collect Cameron or "engage with (departmental) services (staff).". Instead, she tells a story of not being offered help. Of not being told about support systems that were available -- which she has since been offered in droves since yesterday when Cameron's case was made public. "It's not as if I ever said that `OK, he's autistic, I'll dump him here and someone else can deal with him'," Michelle sobs. "But you just feel after a while that you are banging your head against a brick wall; that the department is stretched to the limit and doesn't seem to have the funds or the services they need to have to help people like me or Cameron."

The big issue for the couple is really as much about public housing as getting more support to cope with an autistic child. They say they cannot have Cameron back with them while they live in their Glenorchy home surrounded by steep steps, footpaths, fast cars and a little back garden. "Ideally, we need another government house that is a bit bigger and out of town on a bigger flat block, where Cameron can ride his bike and play, without me having to watch him 24 hours a day," Michelle said. "I've never said I don't want Cammy, just that this house is too dangerous for him to live in."

The family have never been offered a combined case management session with a public housing representative and a disability services or child support worker. Last night, Michelle was told that a foster family had been found for Cameron to live with immediately. At first tearful, she then conceded it was probably a good thing in the short term for Cameron, if only to get him out of the inappropriate Lutana centre. But after the fuss of the past day, Michelle and her partner are determined to get Cameron back living with them in the long term, and for regular access visits in their home while he remains in foster care.

Mr Byrne said he was reviewing all of Cameron's case and was absolutely prepared to "re-engage with the family" if they wanted to be involved. Michelle said: "All I can hope is that out of all these half truths and lies told about me and my family in the past day, that it is all for Cameron's good in the long run. "I don't want empty promises -- I've had enough of them -- but if we can get a more suitable house and some help with Cameron and then get him home, that's all I could ever want."


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