Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gutless officialdom again -- and deaths result

This nonsense should have been knocked on the head immediately but what bureaucrat ever knocked anything on the head?

A stoush [fight] between ambulance Triple-0 operators has left critically ill patients to die, according to paramedics. The battle between call centres over who should take emergency calls has led to several Queensland Ambulance Service staff being disciplined and fined, following a long external investigation.

Problems began when the ambulance communications centre at Maroochydore had to answer overflow Triple-0 calls from Brisbane. Maroochydore staff were meant to take details and send the jobs back to Brisbane for an ambulance to be dispatched. But paramedic sources say Maroochydore staff became angry that Triple-0 calls were not answered by Brisbane colleagues at meal time and shift changes. In turn, Brisbane staff - upset because they claimed more resources went to the Sunshine Coast centre - deliberately diverted some Triple-0 calls to Maroochydore. That had led to a "tit-for-tat battle" between the regions, with calls not being answered promptly by either centre.

The problem surfaced last year and Maroochydore staff became the focus of a QAS investigation. A source said three staff were recently demoted and fined. "The penalty is way outside anything ever handed down before," the source said. But no Brisbane staff, nor management in either centre, were seriously criticised - angering many within the ambulance service. "It is a disgrace how the people of Brisbane are dealt with," one frontline paramedic, who declined to be identified, told The Sunday Mail this week. "We know of cases where people have died before an ambulance reached them in time because Brisbane communications are so inefficient. "It is a shocking state of affairs . . . patients are at risk."

The informant said a lack of funding for ambulance communication centres had also contributed to the problems. "Workload goes up continuously, extra paramedics are promised by government for road duties, but communication centres are being driven into the ground."

A spokesman for Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins confirmed disciplinary action was being taken against officers involved in the communications problem. He said QAS became aware in December 2004 of "discrepancies" in Triple-0 overload calls from Brisbane going to Maroochydore. "The disciplinary process is ongoing so it is inappropriate to comment further." The spokesman could not say how many patients in Brisbane had not been treated appropriately because of ambulance delays. He said QAS dealt with complaints against management but would not discuss individual cases because of confidentiality provisions. Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell had not been briefed on the issue, but his predecessor Chris Cummins knew of the problems.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said: "This case puts in serious doubt the Government's on-going claims over impressive response times for emergency calls." Media reports last month said thousands of Triple-0 calls to Queensland police were unanswered each year because of an outdated communications system.


In Medicare, $170 million savings for Raytheon: "Raytheon Co. will save $170 million by using a new Medicare plan to shift some expenses for retirees' prescriptions to taxpayers. The change also will provide savings to retirees. Many retirees found out last week that their monthly premiums for health coverage will drop. The decline is expected to amount to more than 50 percent, to $60 from $125. The Waltham defense contractor said that under its new benefits package, retirees will receive prescription coverage primarily through the new Medicare drug plan, which is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. ... 'There's a reduction in the cost because somebody else is paying for the drug benefits,' said Ched Miller, the company's manager of retiree benefits. 'Not the retirees, and not Raytheon.'"


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?

Comments? Email me here. If there are no recent posts here, the mirror site may be more up to date. My Home Page is here or here.


No comments: