Thursday, September 03, 2009

Britain desperate for doctors

Rather than spend money on training enough of their own doctors, the NHS has long relied on importing poorly-trained Indian doctors -- but recent changes to the immigration laws have largely cut off that supply. EU doctors, however, are not subject to immigration restrictions

Doctors are being 'poached' from east European countries by the NHS. Health officials in Latvia have accused the NHS of 'buying up our doctors in bulk' to plug gaps in the British health system. They say the exodus of staff is 'ripping the heart' out of health care in the small Baltic state. Recruitment companies supplying the NHS, who are given large commissions, are offering Latvian doctors and nurses salaries of up to five times what they earn at home, officials claim. Some of the staff, who are being recruited for both full and part-time work, speak little or no English.

Professor Andreis Erglis, head of the Latvian Cardiology Centre, said: 'They are buying doctors and nurses literally in bulk. They are ripping the heart out of our health service. 'We are having our best specialists, along with residents who have just graduated, taken away. Old and young, with years of experience and with no experience at all. 'I don't know the exact number of UK recruiting companies operating in Latvia now, but we might lose between 200 and 300 doctors. 'Latvia spent millions on giving them very high quality training, and now they're being hunted away from us.'

Professor Erglis added: 'I have received offers to work in Britain, but I will never desert my centre. I can't blame my colleagues, though. 'Here cardio-surgeons earn around £700 or £800 a month. In Britain, they can get five times as much.'

Peteris Apinis, president of the Latvian Medical Society, said another 70 doctors and senior nurses served notice they were leaving in July by applying for the relevant documents to show future employers. 'The British are the most aggressive in recruiting our medical talent,' he said. 'They are virtually unstoppable. 'When one of our hospitals or clinics faces budget cuts, or staff are laid off, British recruiting agencies are there next day with big posters inviting them to move to the NHS.'

Dr Apinis said that the British companies have obtained the home addresses of Latvian doctors and bombard them with offers to work in the NHS. They are offered assistance with relocation, and help for spouses to get jobs, he said. He called for action by the European Union to stop so many leaving Latvia to join the NHS.

Latvia is in the midst of one of the deepest economic crisis in Europe and its government is trying to prevent the nation going bankrupt.

Up to a third of Britain's primary care trusts fly medical staff from Europe into the UK regularly because of a shortage of British doctors willing to work evenings and weekends. They can earn up to £100 an hour. But amid concerns about standards, the Royal College of GPs and the General Medical Council has demanded a ' radical review' of out-of-hours care so that the NHS no longer has to rely on help from abroad. The medics come from a wide range of European countries, including Poland, Germany, Hungary and the Baltic states.

One British company, ID-Medical, admitted that it currently has 80 Latvian doctors undergoing training with a view to switching to hospitals in England, many of them run by the NHS. ID-Medical, which also recruits doctors in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, is planning a drive this month in the other Baltic states, Estonia and Lithuania. It boasts that it can provide cut price options to the NHS because Eastern European doctors can be paid less than UK medics.

James Coffill, who is leading a team recruiting medics in Latvia, said: 'With the NHS being in financial crisis, we are able to offer them the doctors at a reduced rate.' Medical staff replying to the company's advertisements are told they 'don't need to speak good English' since training courses would provide them with 'sufficient medical English to get by' and teach them 'the procedures and principles of the NHS'. Mr Coffill refused to discuss how his company's commission was paid, or who funded the intensive recruitment drive. But he said that Surreybased ID-Medical provides training for the doctors, enabling them to obtain posts in the NHS, at no initial cost to the staff they are recruiting. A spokesman for the company denied it was doing anything wrong, but said that he did not want to discuss details as it could be useful to competitors.


Britain to invest in proton therapy after boy's Jacksonville treatment

We'll believe it when we see it. The NHS can't even afford enough nurses, midwives and cleaners. How are they going to afford $116 million for one machine?

Convinced that it was his best shot at survival, Alex Barnes’ parents rushed the 4-year-old last fall from their home in England to Jacksonville for six weeks of proton therapy. The results were two-fold: Alex’s aggressive brain cancer all but vanished, and impressed British health officials have begun taking steps to establish the country’s first proton therapy center.

England’s National Health Service last week announced that it is accepting bids from hospitals to host proton therapy services. In a statement to the media, the head of the agency credited the initiative to the lobbying efforts of Alex’s mother, Rosalie. “Her campaign to bring proton therapy services to England so that other children and adults can benefit from having the treatment here impressed me greatly,” said Health Minister Ann Keen, who had a one-on-one meeting with Rosalie last April.

Britain has a proton beam, but it is only strong enough to treat eye cancer. Health officials say the new device likely won’t receive funding until 2011 at the earliest. They aren’t cheap — the University of Florida’s Proton Therapy Institute, which debuted next door to Shands Jacksonville in 2006, cost $116 million. The hefty price tag has limited the number of devices in the United States to six and worldwide to about two dozen.

Supporters say the key difference between proton therapy and conventional radiation, which uses X-rays, is the amount of healthy tissue it preserves around its target. Protons only destroy tissue at the tumor site whereas traditional radiation destroys everything in its path and beyond, leading to potential complications, they say.

For Alex, precision was crucial. Doctors worried that X-ray radiation would damage the boy’s hippocampus, the brain’s learning center, and his hypothalamus, which controls body function. That would have put him at risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular problems and other complications.

Although the British government offers to pay for overseas proton treatments, the Barnes family skipped that process, fearing that Alex would die before his claim could be processed. As it stood, doctors only gave him a 25-40 percent chance of survival. Local news coverage of the boy’s plight helped the family raise thousands of pounds for Alex’s treatment in America. Last September, the boy and his mother flew from their hometown of Fleckney to Jacksonville, where, as it happened, Rosalie went to high school and her parents still lived.

The boy, now 5, underwent surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to remove a quarter-inch-long tumor in his brain. After a few weeks of healing, he crossed the St. Johns River for 33 proton therapy treatments. In the e-mailed words of his mother, “Alex went straight back to school as soon as we returned home and he hasn’t missed a day since. His eyesight is perfect ... and his hearing is sharp, too.”

Coverage of Alex’s story in the British press, coupled with Rosalie’s lobbying campaign, persuaded a contingent of British officials to visit the UF institute earlier this summer. The group spent most of their time quizzing the administrators about how they overcame the logistical hurdles to build the center, said Stuart Klein, the institute’s executive director.

The visit also led to a new partnership. Recently, British officials said they have selected Jacksonville as one of three sites worldwide where they will send proton therapy patients until their device is ready.


An Unclean Bill of Health

With the current proposed health care bill, it is hard to believe how much politicians think they can dupe Americans. After having looked over the proposed bill — HR 3200 — it is a wonder that these people can look straight into a camera and tell such bold faced lies about what is and is not in this bill without regard to the real affect it will have on every American.

And just for the record, the government has no money but that which it receives from taxes. It doesn’t matter if you call it a fee or a separate fund or a fine, the bottom line is: it’s a tax. A tax, by the pertinent definition in the Oxford American Dictionary, is: “a sum of money to be paid by people or business firms to a government, to be used for public purposes.”

So, those in support of this plan can play with semantics all they like, but the American people know where the money is coming from and they don’t want their money used to pay for abortions-period. This bill will result in taxpayer funded abortions.

There are lies about keeping your current doctors and insurance. This Congress must think the population is deficient in math skills and common sense. The fines (taxes) on people and employers for not participating in the government’s plan are prohibitive. Most businesses will simply run the numbers, discover the fee (tax) is cheaper and viola those private plans, the ones people can keep if they like them, will be no more.

There are lies about health care rationing. Has anyone besides whoever wrote them actually read those sections of the bill? The part that outlines how it will be determined whether or not someone is eligible for healthcare and if so, what kind, how much, by what doctor and at what facility? Their solution will be the cost effective means health care rationing. There’s no nicer way to say it. For this program to be affordable, there must be rationing.

There are lies by omission. Those things that are not being mentioned, such as the fact that all Americans will be required to have their medical histories in a government database whether they want to or not. There is a disturbing lack of comment on the proposed national healthcare card which all Americans will be required to have. A card which will give the government access to our bank accounts as well as our medical histories.

There is also a lack of comment on the fact that there will be no way to dispute the withdrawal of whatever fees the government decides we owe for those services. Does anyone think that, having given the government free access to their finances, such access will not be abused? Please note, this card will be required for everyone, not just those in the government plan.

Then there is the biggest lie of all; that Congress has the authority to take over the nation’s healthcare industry in this manner. This proposal goes far beyond the enumerated powers of Congress in the U.S. Constitution. The states could implement this type of program on their own, as Mass. and Maine have already done, but Congress has no authority to impose this type of legislation on the country as a whole.


Another Dirty Secret in Obamacare

Flying under the radar this past week was a new government report that forecasts that the national debt will double over the next decade. The White House has projected a cumulative $9 trillion deficit between 2010 and 2019, while the Congressional Budget Office estimates a more optimistic $7.1 trillion, based upon the expiration of Bush tax cuts. What this means is that Washington's out-of-control spending likely will turn the nation's already-staggering $11 trillion in debt into an astronomical $20 trillion.

But there are at least two ginormous expenses that are excluded in these projections. First, the projections from both the White House and CBO incorporate their belief that the deficit will decline quickly over the next three years, as they assume fewer bailouts are needed and the economy will grow rapidly. But isn't there also the real possibility that the economy will not recover as quickly as they hope? Every additional bailout or stimulus (large or small) and every margin of error in their three-year prospective climb out of the economic pit will inflate our nation's debt balloon even more.

The second expense is far less speculative -- and it has to do with about a fourth of America. The 72 million baby boomers (people born in America from 1946 to 1964), members of the largest generation America has produced, are going into retirement over the next two decades and will face the golden years of declining health and rising medical costs. Under current law, if the government were to add the projected baby boomer costs of Medicare and Social Security to its debt tab, it would send deficit projections into the abyss.

Here's the primary problem. Medicare is bankrupt. Medicaid is bankrupt. And Social Security is bankrupt. Though boomers have paid into these programs via their taxes for decades, there are not enough benefits to offer them now -- and even less in the future. The problem is compounded when one understands that the number of people in the United States who are 65 or older is expected to double by 2030, and so is the amount expected to fund their retirement and health care in their twilight years, which relatively few are prepared to handle themselves.

So what is the U.S. government to do, especially when it already is projected to have $20 trillion worth of debt in 2019? (Let alone what it will be in 2030!)

That reform is needed in health care is not a question, mostly because Americans are being raped by the insurance companies. But Obamacare in its present form is not the answer, because it progressively would cut (yes, cut) the care for baby boomers in the future, if not through the reductions and costs of private options then through the mandatory benefit cuts the government would have to make in Social Security and Obamacare (formerly Medicare). Think about it. If government can't handle the costs of the elderly now in retirement via its Medicare and Social Security programs, do we really expect they will offer the baby boomers better (and more costly) benefits in the future?

According to a CBO report called "Baby Boomers' Retirement Prospects": "Present trends are unlikely to persist indefinitely, however, because total payments to retirees are expected to grow much faster under current law than either the total incomes of workers who pay Social Security and Medicare taxes or the revenues earmarked for those programs. That widening gap will place increasing stress on both programs. Narrowing the gap could involve slowing the future growth of benefits."

Notice the words "under current law" and "slowing the future growth of benefits"? That is key. The only way around this future financial dilemma (according to this administration, at least) is to change "current law" and to "slow" or lower the benefits for baby boomers. That new law (or basic legislation upon which such changes can be amended) is Obamacare.

Look closely at the political prescription from the CBO's same boomer report: "The extent to which baby boomers are providing for their own retirement -- and have time to react to policy changes (emphasis added) -- is thus an important consideration in evaluating proposals to reform the Social Security and Medicare programs." The only way the boomers will "have time to react to policy changes" is if they are enacted before they go into retirement! (Are you catching another reason for the White House's rush to pass this legislation?!)

This is dirty secret No. 4 in Obamacare that our government isn't telling you: Obamacare ultimately is designed to force retiring baby boomers into a much cheaper version of socialized medicine than Medicare, which already is being positioned to be cut to the tune of $500 billion. Obamacare is not merely about reforming health care to aid 47 million Americans who are uninsured. It is about reforming "current law" to ax 72 million retiring Americans, whom the government can't afford to support over the next two decades.


Good Thing We Don't Mix Religion and Politics Anymore

Well, thank Heaven George W. Bush is no longer president! Gosh, all of that mixing of religion and politics darn near subverted our Constitution -- which, as all good liberals know -- enshrines the "wall of separation" between church and state.

What? That phrase doesn't appear in the Constitution? No matter. Democrats know that conservative Republicans, particularly Christians, are dangerous religious fanatics.

When Democrats invoke the Almighty, though, it's altogether different. Religion in a Democrat is evidence of deep moral commitment, even greatness. Many of the eulogies to Teddy Kennedy mentioned his "quiet Catholic faith." His favorite parts of Scripture, we were told, were "Matthew 25 through 35: 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, and thirsty and you gave me to drink.'"

The Democrats, perhaps as a political Hail Mary pass in light of the resistance health care reform has encountered, are now hitting the religion angle pretty hard. At a Tennessee fundraiser over the weekend (at which Bill Clinton arrived early -- a modern miracle if you're looking for one), the reunited team of Clinton and Gore pushed health care reform as a "moral imperative." Playing off the Kennedy eulogies, Gore invoked the Christian obligation to care for "the least of these" as the force behind H.R. 3200.

President Obama, too, has donned the preacher's mantle. Speaking to a coalition of 30 faith-based groups, he thundered that opponents of health care reform were "frankly, bearing false witness." He then offered a religious justification for his policy preference that somehow failed to make liberal Democrats uncomfortable about church/state entanglement. "These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call."

But the president really hit his stride when he spoke by conference call to about a thousand mostly Reform rabbis, asking for their support of health care reform when they address their congregations at the upcoming High Holiday services. As Tevi Troy blogged on National Review Online, the Jewish New Year observance features a prayer called U'netana tokef which reads in part: "On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die ... but repentance, prayer, and charity can remove the evil of the decree."

According to Rabbi Jack Moline of Alexandria, Va., who live-blogged the event but later removed his Tweets from the Internet, President Obama referenced this prayer and then told the rabbis that "I am going to need your help" in getting health care reform passed. "We are God's partners in matters of life and death," the president added.

One cannot even fathom the sort of media firestorm that would have erupted if someone like Sarah Palin had said that. But beyond the blazing double standard, does President Obama really want to venture this deep into moralizing? This is treacherous ground for him. For one thing, a man who is already known for his messiah complex ought to choose his words more carefully. Religious people may think of themselves as striving to do God's will, but declaring yourself God's partner is a just a tad presumptuous. Besides, there are very good reasons to believe that Obama's health reform would lead to worse outcomes, not improved care. More particularly, the administration has recently been drawn into controversy (rightly or wrongly) over "death panels" and also over the Veterans Affairs department's endorsement of a pamphlet that seemed to encourage the elderly and frail to consider whether their lives were really worth extending and/or whether they were "a burden" to their families. In light of that, some may hear a degree of menace in the phrase "God's partners."

But above all, President Obama has previously told us that questions about life were "above his pay grade." He has now pivoted to claim that his health care reform is a matter of life and death. If he is now going to invoke religious authority, his opponents are entitled to recall not only that Barack Obama has a perfect pro-abortion voting record, but also that just a few years ago he spearheaded opposition to legislation that would have simply required that an infant who accidentally survived an abortion be given medical attention.


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