Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Disgraced brain surgeon Tim Steel has been cleared to return to work just weeks after being caught with cocaine in Queensland. The NSW Medical Board last week declared Steel fit to work provided he undergoes regular drug tests in the next 18 months. But the Sydney hospitals Steel worked at - St Vincent's public and private hospitals and Concord Hospital - are still considering whether to reinstate him.

David Faktor, a spokesman for St Vincent's public and private hospitals, confirmed a letter received from the Medical Board said Steel could be "reinstated without restrictions". "That means he can consult and treat patients and perform surgery," Mr Faktor said. "St Vincent's Public Hospital is going to meet with Dr Steel soon to discuss the letter. "Dr Steel will have to meet a unique set of principles before he can be reinstated."

A spokeswoman for Concord Hospital, where Steel is a visiting medical officer, said: "Dr Steel's return, and the terms of that return, are still under consideration."

The 41-year-old socialite was arrested during a police raid on a Surfers Paradise nightclub on September 18. He pleaded guilty and was allowed to walk free on condition he attended drug counselling or forfeit a $500 surety. Steel, who had been on the Gold Coast for a meeting of brain and spinal surgeons, is considered one of Australia's best neurosurgeons. Last weekend, he was photographed at his luxury Woollahra mansion with new flame Emma-Kate Sullivan. Ms Sullivan, a former Sale Of The Century glamour girl, is the former wife ofHong Kong-based jockey Shane Dye. Steel was formerly married to model Donnah Wise, but they spit about two years ago.



Supermarkets and high-street chemists could be asked to provide NHS services, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said. Ms Hewitt said GPs in London were sending patients to a weight-loss programme run by a chemist. She said she would look to see if the idea could be expanded to other areas.

Speaking at a health conference in Birmingham Ms Hewitt told the BBC: "One of the ideas that came up in one of the earlier consultations was exactly that - could you have Boots or a supermarket or whoever, some other organisation or a charity or voluntary group providing more services for NHS patients and on the NHS."

Ms Hewitt's comments will cause concern among some in the Labour Party and trade unions. There was anger at this year's Labour Party conference over plans to give private firms a greater role in the NHS.



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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