Sunday, December 11, 2005


One of the most decorated British fighter pilots of the Second World War has sold his medals, diaries and other memorabilia partly to pay for a hip replacement operation for his wife who faced at least a six-month wait on the National Health Service. Sqn Ldr Neville Duke, 83, the Royal Air Force's top-scoring ace in the Mediterranean theatre who set a world air speed record of 728 mph in 1953, put the collection up for auction rather than subject his wife Gwen to months of pain and discomfort while she waited for an operation.

The standard waiting time for hip replacements in the orthopaedic department at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, one of the nearest facilities to the Dukes' home, is six months. Mrs Duke, who has been in pain with her hip for eight months, was told by her chiropractor that the wait might be 15 months.

Before the sale Mrs Duke, 85, explained: "It is very likely I will need a new hip and that is something we just cannot afford. If I went on a NHS waiting list I would have to wait forever, and at my age that's no good. 'By selling Neville's things we will be able to pay for the hip. We pulled out of BUPA because they practically doubled the rate when we reached 60. "There are other important reasons, such as security, for selling. He's very upset about it." In the event, the auction at Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair raised œ138,000, some œ8,000 of which would be required for an operation. The medals went to a private British collector.

Sqn Ldr Duke's DSO, awarded in the field after he shot down seven enemy aircraft in seven days, DFC and two bars, Air Force Cross and OBE for his achievements as a test pilot for Hawker form one of the finest collections of medals accrued by a pilot of his generation. The lots also included the ripcord he pulled when he baled out for the second time in the war and came near to drowning in an Italian lake after almost falling out of his harness. Sqn Ldr Duke said the decision to sell the medals was a hard one but had been forced upon him by worries about his wife's condition, security at the family home following three burglaries, the cost of insuring the collection and the desire to keep it together, the couple having no children....

Still an active pilot after 65 years, Sqn Ldr Duke flew 485 sorties in the war, shooting down 27 aircraft and sharing two more kills, a performance that placed him in the league of pilots such as "Bob" Stanford Tuck and second only to "Johnnie" Johnson. During his tour in North Africa he was shot down by the Luftwaffe ace Otto Schulz, but managed to crash land. In September 1953 he took the world air speed record from the Americans when his all-red Hawker Hunter reached 728 mph over Tangmere, Kent.

More here

Queensland public hospitals: Negligent health bureaucrat forced out

Another bureaucrat at the centre of Bundaberg's Dr Patel scandal may escape disciplinary action after resigning from Queensland Health. Peter Leck quit his position as Bundaberg district health manager on Wednesday. He had been facing misconduct charges for ignoring concerns about Indian-trained surgeon Jayant Patel, who was found to have contributed to at least 13 deaths at Bundaberg Base Hospital.

Mr Leck is the second bureaucrat to quit his post after having adverse findings made against him. Darren Keating, the hospital's former director of medical services, left Queensland Health last month.

However, the Davies report into the saga, handed down last week, recommended he still face criminal charges. A Crime and Misconduct Commission spokeswoman said the body was considering its options over Mr Leck. But it was not pursuing Dr Keating, she said.

Bundaberg victims support group spokeswoman Beryl Crosby said Dr Patel's former patients would be angry if Mr Leck escaped charges. "We rollercoaster ride all the way through this but they were really, really coming to terms the other day that justice was seen to be done," she told ABC Radio today. "But they're going to be very, very upset if he gets off scot free out of this."

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said he was not surprised Mr Leck had also resigned. "He slipped through the net now because he will not be able to be prosecuted for official misconduct, or any of those provisions that you would expect public servants to be ... disciplined for," he said.



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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