Helen Kerner trusted her "nice, clean-cut" neurosurgeon when he said he had performed the delicate spinal operation she required 1500 times before. The 60-year-old was confused when she woke up incontinent, still in pain, with no feeling in her legs or pelvis, and upset when he tried to discharge her from hospital two days into recovery.
But when Suresh Surendranath Nair confessed that his "drill slipped" during the procedure, severing several nerves in her spine, Ms Kerner said she felt sorry for the doctor, who was then 38. "I felt like 'my goodness me, he must be feeling awful for what he's done'," Ms Kerner said. "But not now, not now, I'm pretty angry now."
The Health Care Complaints Commission is reportedly reviewing all surgery performed at Nepean Public Hospital under the direction of Dr Nair, 41, who faces drugs charges following the death in November of a 22-year-old student in his $1.7 million apartment. Sydney West Area Health Service has admitted a breach of duty of care in Ms Kerner's case.
Another neurosurgeon described the procedure, performed in 2006, as a standard operation and said Dr Nair's mistake was "usually so rare as to be virtually unheard of". The Malaysian-born, Australian-trained surgeon's registration had been suspended in 2004, after an appearance before the NSW Medical Board's Impaired Registrants Panel. He was suspended again in 2008 and on November 26 last year, following his arrest.
Ms Kerner, a former relief manager at Anglicare second-hand shops, said she did not know Dr Nair had been suspended when she was referred to him in 2006. "I had very bad back pain, sciatic pain, and all the doctor had to do was remove a bone spur away from the nerve, just grind it away from the nerve," Ms Kerner said. "The drill slipped … and my life changed, completely changed."
Sydney West Area Health Service would not comment. Dr Nair's solicitor, Mitchell Cavanagh, said he was not aware of the case and had not yet been able to discuss it with his client.
Ms Kerner, formerly a keen dancer and gardener, now uses walking sticks because she cannot feel her left leg and her foot is deformed. She is bowel and bladder incontinent, has lost all sexual function and lives with constant, severe pain in her legs and feet, according to a statement of claim filed in the NSW Supreme Court. "I'm very depressed. I wake up in the morning crying sometimes … I'm very embarrassed to go out because of things that happen," she said. "That's my life now. I don't have one."
Ms Kerner said she knew something was wrong as soon as she woke up. "I spoke to Dr Nair the next morning and he didn't tell me he slipped with the drill … He told me [he] stretched one of the nerves and it had to be repaired," she said. "He said within three months it should heal itself and I believed him because he's my doctor." Her confusion was compounded when Dr Nair tried to have her discharged from hospital two days after the procedure, before she had been seen by an continence adviser or physiotherapist.
It was not until Ms Kerner noticed the word "severed" written on her observation chart that she pressed for answers. At a meeting Ms Kerner said she attended with her then partner, the hospital's nursing manager and a clinical liaison officer, Dr Nair confessed his mistake. "I said, 'But you didn't tell me that before' and he said, 'Yes I did' … " she said.
At a second meeting attended, according to Ms Kerner, by her continence adviser and a friend, two hospital administrators told her she could sue for negligence. Legal proceedings began in November 2008 and Sydney West Area Health Services wrote to Ms Kerner's solicitor on November 3 last year, admitting a breach of duty of care.
"As far as I'm concerned the hospital should have got rid of him at the start, in 2004," Ms Kerner said. "If he was gone I wouldn't be like this."
Dr Nair has been in police custody since January 9 after he breached his bail conditions, which prohibited him from hiring prostitutes or taking illicit drugs. He is due in court on March 1. The State Coroner is also investigating the death of an escort, Victoria McIntyre, whose body was found in Dr Nair's apartment last February.
A NSW Supreme Court hearing in July will determine what compensation and damages NSW Health must pay Ms Kerner.
America's working poor unimpressed by Obamacare
And ignored by the Democratic party
There is already sufficient evidence from Massachusetts to suggest that poorer working families in the old factory towns there - frugal households in Fitchburg, Gardner or Peabody who have purchased private health insurance at considerable costs to their style of life - are disinclined to donate their tax dollars to further subsidising the healthcare costs of those who don't appear able to budget as tightly as they do. No doubt this shows a regrettable diminution of the impulses of universal humanity and sympathy on their part. And yet who among us truly knows, if we fell upon genuinely hard times, how well our own impulses of universal benevolence would hold up?
In recent decades the historic role of the Democratic Party's "base" (that most over-invoked and self-glamorised of entities) has been to adopt the interests of non-white ethnic minorities and the very poor, along with the grand ideals and more pragmatic career-aspirations of the highly educated, but to neglect or reject the concerns of the majority of Americans between those two social extremes, seen for these purposes as morally uninteresting.
And yet, since the 1960s the greater purpose of every serious Democratic president has been to show themselves capable of taking to their hearts the troubles of poor white folks and poor black folks, migrants and old-timers, the struggling and the striving alike, against all the snobbish instincts and the noblesse oblige pretensions of the Democratic Party's so-called base. Obama's trouble now is that he appears to lack the moral and rhetorical resources to fulfil that role. In its absence the would-be Robespierres of the Democratic Party - the posturers, the self-glamorisers and the selective empathisers alike - are having a field day.
Poll shows majority wants Congress to suspend work on ObamaCare, Democrats weigh options
A new Gallup poll shows that a majority now favor suspending work on ObamaCare, showing a 56% of independent voters holding that opinion as well:
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Jan. 20 to gauge initial reaction from Americans to Brown’s victory in the special election to fill the remainder of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s term. Massachusetts voters elected a Republican to the Senate for the first time since 1972. Americans widely agree that the election result has national political implications — 72% say it reflects many Americans’ frustrations, which the president and members of Congress should pay attention to, while 18% believe it is a reflection of political conditions in Massachusetts.
According to the poll, most self-identified Democrats (67%) want Congress to continue working toward passage of the bill. However, an even larger majority of Republicans (87%) call for suspension of Congress’ current work on the bill. The majority of political independents, whose support has been crucial to recent Republican election victories in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey, would also prefer to see the reform efforts put on hold rather than moved forward.
According to the poll, 65% believe that Congress should focus on other issues first or believe that health care should not be a major priority.
This isn’t stopping Democrats from trying to get something on health care passed. As I pointed out the night that Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, they may try reconciliation, which would bypass the filibuster but still could result in non-revenue producing measure being stripped from the bill if a point of order is raised.
Some news outlets are reporting today that Democrats may try to pass a list of changes to the health care bill as a separate piece of legislation as a way to get something moved through Congress this year. That could still meet a Republican filibuster in the Senate, assuming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) can’t win over one of the two Senators from Maine.
ObamaCare isn’t dead, but it is on life support and with each passing day comes the reality that the president’s domestic agenda was defeated in Massachusetts on January 19th.
Pelosi and Reid Plot Secret Plan for Obamacare
Highly informed sources on Capitol Hill have revealed to me details of the Democratic plan to sneak through Congress Obamacare, despite collapsing public approval for healthcare "reform" and disintegrating Congressional support in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have all agreed to the basic framework of the plan.
Their plan is clever but can be stopped if opponents of radical healthcare reform act quickly and focus on a core group of 23 Democratic Congressman. If just a few of these 23 Democrats are "flipped" and decide to oppose the bill, the whole Obama-Pelosi-Reid stratagem falls apart.
Here's what I learned top Democrats are planning to implement. Senate Democrats will go to the House with a two-part deal. First, the House will pass the Senate's Obamacare bill that passed the Senate in December. The House leadership will vote on the Senate bill, and Pelosi will allow no amendments or modifications to the Senate bill.
How will Pelosi's deal fly with rambunctious liberal members of her majority that don't like the Senate bill, especially its failure to include a public option, put heavy fines on those who don't get insurance and offering no income tax surcharge on the "rich"? That's where the second part of the Pelosi-deal comes in.
Behind closed doors Reid and Pelosi have agreed in principle that changes to the Senate bill will be made to satisfy liberal House members -- but only after the Senate bill is passed and signed into law by Obama. This deal will be secured by a pledge from Reid and the Senate's Democratic caucus that they will make "fixes" to the Senate bill after it becomes law with Obama's John Hancock.
But you may ask what about the fact that without Republican Scott Brown and independent Democrats like Joe Lieberman, Reid simply doesn't have the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster that typically can stop major legislation? According to my source, Reid will provide to Pelosi a letter signed by 52 Democratic Senators indicating they will pass the major changes, or "fixes", the House Democrats are demanding. Again, these fixes will be approved by the Senate only after Obama signs the Senate bill into law.
Reid has also agreed to bypass Senate cloture and filibuster rules and claim that these modifications fall under "reconciliation" and don't require 60 Senate votes. To pass the fixes, he won't need one Republican, he won't even need Joe Lieberman or wavering Democrats like Jim Webb of Virginia. His 52 pledged Senators give him a simple majority to pass any changes they want, which will later be rubberstamped by Pelosi's House and signed by Obama.
This plan, of course, is a total subversion of the legislative process. Typically, the Senate and House pass their own unique legislation and then both bills go to a conference committee. In conference the leadership of both Democrat-dominated houses wheel and deal and iron out differences. The final compromise bill is then sent back to the full Senate and full House for a vote and has to pass both to go to the President. In the House a simple majority passes the legislation. But under Senate rules, major legislation requires 60 votes to end a filibuster.
As it stands, the House bill and Senate bill have major discrepancies. Reid does not have 60 votes to pass a compromise bill that would no doubt include some of the radical provisions House members have been demanding. But if the House passes the exact Senate bill that passed by a 60-39 Senate vote last month, there is no need for a conference on the bill. It will go directly to the President's desk.
There is a rub to all of this. This secret plan being hatched by Pelosi and Reid requires not only a pledge by 52 Democratic Senators to vote later for the House modifications. House liberals must actually believe these Senators will live up to their pledge and pass the fixes at some future date. A Senate source cautions: “Senators more than House members and both more than ordinary people, lie.”
Still, my Senate source and others in Washington believe that the liberals in the House, grasping at straws after the stunning Massachusetts defeat, will go along with the Reid-Pelosi plan to bypass a conference bill and and will ultimately vote for the Senate version without changes.
Among the key "fixes" House liberals are demanding the Senate pass in reconciliation at some later date include a “carve out” for unions from the “Cadillac policy” insurance tax. The Senate plan funds their health care plan by heavy taxes on so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans that provide those insured with exceptionally good coverage including almost unlimited health access with little or no co-payments. The Senate's view was that rich people have such plans and should be taxed for them to pay the less fortunate.
But many unions have "Cadillac' plans for their members, and they are furious their members will be hit with the Senate tax. The unions have told their minions in the House to oppose the Senate Cadillac plan tax. House liberals are also requiring a fix that increases fines for those who flout the law and don't buy health insurance (the Pelosi passed plan includes criminal penalties, including possible jail time if a person doesn't purchase insurance). Another fix will raise subsidies for low-income families seeking to buy insurance.
In the original House bill that passed, healthcare expansion costs would have been paid for by an income tax surcharge on the "rich." House liberals are pushing for that fix as well.
So what is the counter-move? How do opponents of Obamacare stop this? Opponents cannot rely on liberal Democrats in the House who might balk at passing the Senate bill with just a "pledge" from 52 Senators. I have no doubt House liberals, despite their skepticism, will fade under pressure from Pelosi and Obama. They will do their duty and pass the Senate bill, whatever their current posturing.
Instead, the key to stopping the Pelosi-Reid plan lies with conservative or “moderate” Democrats who voted for the health care bill the first time. There are 23 of these conservative-leaning Democratic House members who voted for Pelosi's Obamacare back in November, which passed by just five votes, with 39 Democrats defecting to vote against the bill. All 23 of these Congressman who did vote for the Pelosi bill are extremely vulnerable.
Opponents of Obamacare need to climb all over these 23 Congressmen with TV ads and advocacy campaigns in their districts to get them to change their vote this time, to vote "no" to the Senate bill when it comes before the House. Voters need to say, "You voted for Obamacare the first time. But your district opposes it by 2 to 1. Now it is coming up for a vote again. Listen to your constituents and vote no. We don’t want Medicare cuts or premium increases or rationing of medical care. Don’t monkey with our health care. Vote no this time.”
Since the House healthcare bill passed by five votes, much has happened and the political landscape has changed dramatically. The Massachusetts election of a Republican to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has sent shock waves through Washington. Every one of these 23 Democrats knows they will face an angry backlash in their districts if they vote for the Senate bill and go along with Pelosi-Reid plan to ram through Obamacare. I believe now is the time to act for opponents to act. The truth is that Obamacare is hanging by a thread. Opponents, if they move now, can drive a stake through its heart.
Once these Congressmen hear from their aroused constituents, they won’t be able to back Obamacare. As I mentioned, the Pelosi health bill passed the House by only 220-215. Nancy Pelosi knows she has no margin for error. If only a handful of these 23 Congressman change their vote under public pressure, the Pelosi-Reid plan is stopped and Obamacare is dead.