Monday, June 08, 2009

Senate committee to hear about VA mistakes in southeast

A U.S. Senate committee will ask Department of Veterans Affairs officials how mistakes at three hospitals in the Southeast possibly infected patients with HIV and hepatitis.

The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has set a June 24 hearing for VA officials to talk about mistakes with endoscopic equipment that possibly exposed patients to infectious body fluids at Murfreesboro, Miami and Augusta, Ga. A House Committee on Veterans' Affairs subcommittee last week set a June 16 hearing on the VA mistakes.

The VA has warned that more than 10,000 former patients at the three hospitals to get follow-up blood checks. Five have tested positive for HIV and 43 have tested positive for hepatitis.


Scans showing possible cancer not passed on for months at scandal-hit NHS hospital trust

Scans showing possible cancer were not passed on to consultants for months at scandal-hit Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, MPs have heard. Forms detailing serious incidents also ended up in the waste paper bins of senior managers or in a "black hole", the Commons Health Select Committee was told.

A report from the Healthcare Commission in March condemned "appalling" and "shocking" standards of care at the trust, which led to some patients dying.

Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period, with the poorest examples of care at Stafford Hospital. Families described "Third World" conditions at the trust, with some patients so thirsty they drank water from vases and others left screaming in pain.

The Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust was awarded Foundation Trust status just before the investigation into the scandal began and Ben Bradshaw, Health Minister, told MPs that legal changes are under consideration to allow the status to be removed and thus bring failing trusts back under the control of Whitehall. Mr Bradshaw also appeared to soften the Government's opposition to a public inquiry into the scandal, saying ministers remained open to persuasion but were not currently convinced it was necessary.

Dr Peter Daggett, a consultant physician and endocrinologist at the trust, who has worked there since 1982, told the committee that a cardiologist submitted forms detailing serious incidents which were "downgraded" to minor incidents by nursing managers or were not investigated at all.

Another colleague, a gastroenterologist, warned that there was a dangerous lack of nurses on the wards but nothing was done. However Dr Daggett said although nurses had apologised over the failings, doctors had not because "they had nothing to apologise for".


Australia: More government means less healthcare

This week the headlines announced that Australia’s ‘free’ health system was in danger of being replaced with a ‘US-style’ user pay system because out of control growth in the cost of the NSW public hospital system will drain the State’s coffers. So NSW Health has come up with a new and radical plan (it is neither) to save Medicare.

When we think about the coming crisis of Medicare, we usually think of the impact of new medical technology that can do more things for more patients, especially elderly patients. But in relation to public hospitals, the crisis is now and more fundamental. Despite ever escalating government funding for the system, bills are not paid, patients are not properly fed, and there aren’t enough beds to treat emergency patients, let alone elective patients, in a timely manner.

We know who and what is to blame for the ‘hospital crisis.’ Like all government bureaucracies that are responsible for delivering public services, NSW Health and the area health services that run public hospitals are incapable, of controlling costs, increasing efficiency, or improving quality.

So the bureaucracy is now looking for a financial bail-out – using a dishonest scare about ‘US-style’ health and jokes about ‘slashing red tape’ to grease the political wheels.

NSW Health’s plan to save Medicare is for all Commonwealth and state hospital and health funding, including the money used to fund bulk-billed GP care, to be cashed out, ‘pooled,’ and distributed to regional health authorities (a.k.a. the area health services) that would be responsible for the planning and provision of all health services within a designated region.

Based on ‘reforms’ introduced in United Kingdom, this plan would transform the health system for the worst. Because it would involve the elimination of fee-for-service general practice, GP services would end up being ‘rationed,’ just like public hospital care. People who wait months now on elective surgery waiting lists would end up waiting for days and possibly weeks before they could even see a GP.

We do need to find a cure for the coming crisis of Medicare. But a plan that would give the bureaucracies that operate public hospitals without enough beds even greater control of our precious health dollars should be dismissed out of hand.

The above is a press release from CIS

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