Not long after emigrating from South Africa, we spent a weekend with some friends on Stewart Island (going south, that’s the little island just before the ocean breaks out into icebergs and penguins). Once fine day, my friend said to me,”we should go for a walk today, the tramps around here are great!”
There was a short silence while Mrs. MacDoctor and I wondered what could be so nice about a bunch of hobos. “Are they gypsies, or something?” I enquired, politely. There followed one of those brief moments of mutual incomprehension as we processed each others words. “No, no walks,” exclaimed my friend “Tramps are walks, not homeless people.” The joys of learning a new version of English…
“Injustice killing Kiwis on grand scale” blares the headline on Stuff, today.
“Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale, the New Zealand Medical Journal says.”
No, it doesn’t. I have the New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ) in front of me. Unlike the reporter, I have actually read the papers the article is based on. The heading of the editorial is “Social Injustice is killing people on a grand scale” and it is a direct quote from a recent report by the World Health Organization. The report, quite rightly, points out that massive inequalities in social circumstance cause massive inequalities in health – hardly rocket science. In typical WHO fashion , it then goes on to say:
I read today that Auckland’s largest after-hours clinic, White Cross Ascot A&M, wishes to get out of it’s arrangement with Auckland DHB that freezes the amount of co-payment they can charge for after-hours visits. The fact that the agreement was signed in November last year and has only 4 months to run, illustrates the frightening speed with which a service can become sub-economic. As usual the DHB wishes to fiddle while Rome burns:
“The board paper says officials will talk with other interested parties about other ways of providing A&M services after hours during the week, at weekends and on public holidays.”
What a great solution! Let’s go and find people with no facilities and much less expertise to provide the service, instead of negotiating with the current provider.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) announced today that a new disturbing epidemic is sweeping through America. Palin Derangement Syndrome or PDS, a variant of Bush Derangement Syndrome has decimated the ranks of journalists who were attending the Republican convention this week. It is highly contagious and is thought to be transmitted by exposure to media containing the word “Palin”. Symptoms range from a mild sneer through to foaming at the mouth and convulsions. Victims develop severe obsessions with complete trivia and rapidly become delusional. There is no known cure
CDC say that, at this time, citizens are advised to stay indoors and avoid all televisions and newspapers. There have been some reports that watching the Fox News channel may help, however, most PDS victims say they would rather die. Re-runs of old Obama speeches seems to have a calming effect, which Democrats point to as further evidence that he is “The One”.
There is currently no evidence that PDS is the work of any terrorist organisation.
The president was not available for comment.
An article I read a couple of days ago got me thinking about treatment of the elderly. It was a story about a daughter claiming that her mother, a dementia sufferer, was left to die in hospital without food and water, because the doctors had “given up”. I don’t want to make any comment on the story, because media articles on this kind of thing are invariably devoid of the necessary facts. But I do want to say that this sort of decision not to treat is a fairly common one in hospitals. Typically, the area of contention is within the family. The doctors discuss it with one set of relatives and they are happy with the plan – then another relative comes along who is not in favour of the treatment withdrawal and the sparks fly.
An expression of shock came from the UICC (International Union Against Cancer) World Cancer Congress last week because New Zealand is the only first world country not to fund the 12 month course of Herceptin. I have a number of doctor friends overseas. When I told them about Pharmac’s decision to fund only a nine-week course their reactions were all very similar. Something along the lines of “Are they crazy?” This seems to be the international reaction to the way we do things in New Zealand’s health system – universal disbelief.
It’s official – we have the worst access to heart surgery in the first world, according to this article! $6 billion dollars in extra health funding and we still don’t have first world access to life-saving operations. And why is this?
“Staff shortages in the health sector, especially in intensive care unit nursing, were fingered as a major factor in the country’s poor performance.”
We don’t have enough doctors and nurses! What a sad indictment on the minister and ministry of health. Tony Ryall comments thus:
“Mr Ryall told the Herald the findings were “virtually the same” as those in another report received by the Government in 2003.”
And, in fairness to the current government, there wouldn’t have been much difference prior to 1999 either.
It is now 20 years since the Metro magazine article blew the lid off unethical experiments on cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital in Auckland. The study failed to inform the women involved of their risks, or even that they were involved in a clinical trial at all. Consequently a number of women died of cervical cancer who could have been saved.
The Cartwright inquiry was formed to investigate the trial and directly resulted in:
“* A national cervical screening programme.
* An overhaul of the medical disciplinary system.
* The creation of the Health and Disability Commissioner system.
* State-appointed ethics committees to oversee research.
* Reinforcing of the concept of doctors having to fully inform patients.”
That’s a fair achievement for a single inquiry, although only the ethics committee was a direct result of the unethical trial. I have mixed feelings about the HDC and the drive to “fully inform” patients.
The prize for the most eye-watering double entendre of the year goes to Rodney Hide, who commenting on Winston Peters and Helen Clark last night said:
““She’s stood him down but she hasn’t cut off his baubles””
Nasty. And without anaesthetic, too!
Rodney, I know you and Peters don’t get on, but surely a simple tarring and feathering would suffice?
In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams describes the ultimate bureaucrat, the Vogon thus:
“A Vogon would not lift a finger to save his own grandmother from the Ravenous Bug-blatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, lost, found, queried, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighter.”
This is a splendid description of the kind of machinations that parents have to go through when trying to access any state help for disabled children as told in today in the Herald article “The red tape run-around“. Somebody once said that a bureaucrat is someone who can cut red tape, lengthways. And that is certainly what it feels like, trying to access health services.