Doctors facing charges ‘already disciplined’

A number doctors possibly facing criminal charges over patient harm or death have already faced disciplinary action or have been stopped from practicing medicine in Queensland.
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Though charges against six medical practitioners referred to police are yet to be laid, a spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said some had already been dealt with by authorities, including the Queencland Civil Administration Tribunal.

But calls for a Royal Commission into the matter were unlikely to be satisfied, the spokesman said.

“Steps have already been taken in practically each case,” he said. “These have been well discussed cases, and there have been ongoing negotiations with the [Australian Health Practitioner Agency] and QCAT in regards to the matters – the concern over criminal behaviour has taken it to the next level and it’s now a matter for the police to deal with these doctors.”

However the names of the doctors could not be revealed, nor could the specifics of their 24 alleged offences – 11 of which relate to one doctor alone – for privacy reasons, he said.

Such details were contained in a schedule compiled by criminal law specialist and former crown prosecutor Jeffrey Hunter SC whose inquiry into a whistle-blower’s complaints last year about gross malpractice resulted in the doctors’ referrals.

The schedule was attached to a letter from Mr Hunter released in redacted form by Mr Springborg’s office on Sunday along with a statement that confirmed the police investigation and foreshadowed changes to complaints legislation.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart was unavailable for comment yesterday, but it is understood police received notice about Mr Hunter’s findings as early as March 6, when the CEO of Australian Health Practitioner Agency Martin Fletcher wrote a letter offering to assist with the investigation.

Concerns about possible criminal activity in the state’s health sector were initially raised when former medical board investigator turned whistleblower Jo Barber gave the Crime and Misconduct Commission the names of 18 doctors she says might have maimed or killed patients in May last year.

At the time, Ms Baber said many of the doctors were still practising despite being “recklessly incompetent” to the point of gross patient negligence and death.

Ms Barber said Sunday that she was surprised only six doctors were referred given the amount of information she provided, including details about a doctor who “deliberately killed many times”, others with alcohol or drug addictions, and one who repeatedly botched cosmetic surgery procedures.

“That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Ms Barber said. “[There was evidence of] dangerous surgery which saw women’s faces and breast rot off, because untrained doctors – who wanted to make lots of money –  watched some Youtube films and decided to have a crack.”

She said only a Royal Commission could “uncover the truth, and bring about reform of our sick and corrupted health care system”.

In relation to the likelihood the matter will spur legislative change over how malpractice allegations are handled, medical negligence lawyer Sarah Atkinson said any move towards law changes would help increase patient safety.

‘‘This is also important for medical practitioners,’’ the Maurice Blackburn lawyer said.

‘‘The majority of health staff do a very good job, but it’s essential that systems to protect patients are as strong as possible to ensure that those putting patients at unnecessary risk are identified as quickly as possible.’’

As recently as November last year, QCAT handed down a decision supporting sanctions on an 88 year-old doctor operating in Northern Queensland who bungled prescriptions, failed to properly diagnose patients, and failed to document his consultations.

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Social media sledging didn’t justify Dugan’s abuse

Josh Dugan had 2 million reasons to walk away from a social media fight, but couldn’t resist getting in the ring.
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The axed Raiders star can complain as much as he wants about getting heckled by fans on social media and not having to put up with the abuse.

But what he clearly forgot is the smartest guy in the fight is the one who walks away, especially when a $2million contract is on offer.

That the Broncos aborted their chase of the 22-year-old didn’t surprise me – I was more shocked it took this long.

Dugan was always going to be a massive risk for whatever club picked up the pieces after the Raiders rightfully sent him on his way. The talented fullback didn’t just have one chance. He had countless strikes before the Raiders said enough was enough.

You would have thought he would have learnt his lesson about social media.

Used correctly, outlets such as Twitter and Instagram can provide fans with a valuable insight into their favourite players, while also increasing the players’ brand image.

Before Sunday, Dugan hadn’t posted on his Twitter account since March 12 – the day a photo emerged of him shooting the breeze on a rooftop and missing a Raiders recovery session in the process.

That photo came from Instagram, the same app which became the source of his latest downfall on Saturday night.

There was no malice in the latest photo Dugan posted, just one of him and a mate enjoying a good time.

A couple of people – at least one who is a Raiders fan – took the opportunity to get stuck into Dugan about leaving the Raiders, breaking up with his partner and the fact the Raiders were better off with Reece Robinson at fullback. They were cheap shots.

High-profile sportspeople, and celebrities from other walks of life, are easy targets for abuse. Yet that doesn’t give Dugan the right to engage in the battle, let alone to tell one of the users to ”end yourself”.

Footy players cop sledging from the bleachers on a weekly basis. The advent of social media has taken it to a whole more personal level. Trolls have become the biggest menace in the online environment.

The NRL has a strict social media policy for its players, underlined by the fact it employed Charlotte Dawson as an anti-bullying ambassador.

Dawson had a breakdown and self-admitted herself to hospital last year after she was told to kill herself on social media.

Even if the Broncos had proceeded with their pursuit of Dugan, there was no guarantee the NRL would have registered the contract given his latest indiscretion.

As part of his apology on Twitter on Sunday, Dugan spoke about there being two sides to the story and how he shouldn’t have to put up with the harassment.

Then again, he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did. If only he would respond to my numerous texts and phone calls so I can find out his side of the story.

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Port powers to big win over Demons

Jay Schulz flies for a big mark against Melbourne.New Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has credited his team’s unrelenting pressure after Melbourne fell apart in a stunning AFL mismatch.
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The Power and Melbourne had so much to play for in round 1, but after half-time Port had the MCG to themselves and won by 79 points.

Demons fans booed their team at three-quarter time and after the final siren.

While the 19.19 (133) to 8.6 (54) drubbing was a dream start to Hinkley’s senior coaching career, it was equally a shocking day for his Melbourne counterpart Mark Neeld.

The Demons must recover fast, otherwise another long and barren season is ahead of them.

Neeld met with his players behind closed doors for half an hour post-match.

Hinkley said the Power coaching staff felt their players were applying plenty of pressure in the first half, but not quite gaining enough reward for effort.

Leading by 27 points after a competitive first half, Port tore Melbourne apart in the third term with 5.6 to a solitary behind.

“We had a big part to play in that – our intensity, even for the start of that quarter,” Hinkley said of Melbourne’s third-quarter collapse.

“Because they kept at it, in the end, clearly they got that result.

“Constant pressure builds and it keeps building and … at some stage, there’s going to be a little break somewhere.”

After Port finished 14th and Melbourne were 16th last year, the two clubs had solid pre-seasons and came into this match full of enthusiasm.

Hinkley’s arrival was part of a total overhaul at Port that included new president David Koch and new captain Travis Boak.

Melbourne also made widespread changes to their playing list.

But in the second half the Demons were awful, frequently allowing their opponents far too much room and committing basic skill errors.

“The whole club’s hurting, no one saw that coming,” said Demons coach Mark Neeld.

“We just didn’t get it done under pressure, we didn’t deal at all with Port’s speed all day, we didn’t cope.”

Hinkley made a massive understatement when he said: “We know there will be days where it won’t go as good as it went today for us.”

Adding to a great day, Port were missing several key players – Domenic Cassis, Alipate Carlile, Robbie Gray, Brett Ebert and John Butcher.

Midfielder Hamish Hartlett starred for the Power and Jay Schulz kicked four goals.

Schulz and Melbourne’s Cam Pedersen kicked goals in the second term after taking towering marks that came under video review.

Replays suggested the two players were lucky the marks were cleared.

High-profile recruits Ollie Wines (Port) and Jack Viney (Melbourne) made their AFL debuts and starred, showing poise and skill far beyond their youth.

Viney and fellow first- gamer Matt Jones stood out for Melbourne.

Demons key forward Mitch Clark hobbled off in the third term with an ankle injury, but it was not as serious as first feared.

Clark missed most of last season with a leg injury.

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Councillors a burden on Tasmania

MUNICIPALITIES throughout Tasmania must ask themselves whether their councils are bleeding them of precious rate revenue to pay too many councillors.
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The Examiner has revealed today how 14 of the state’s municipalities are serving a ratepayer population of less than 10,000.

In the case of Flinders Island, a council of seven serves a population of only 776, and King Island has nine councillors serving 1566.

In Victoria the Geelong council has 13 councillors serving a population of 220,000.

Across Victoria the ratio of councillors to population is about one per 8912, while in Tasmania it’s one for only 1822.

The 14 councils with populations under 10,000 have aldermen costs totalling more than $1.8 million, or on average $136,000 per council in councillor fees.

Quite apart from the debate about the number of councils in the state, it is plain waste and overgovernment to have so many aldermen for the small populations.

Ratepayers and taxpayers have enough of their precious net incomes compulsorily acquired by governments in rates and taxes without having to pay more than is necessary to keep an oversupply of aldermen in a job.

You wouldn’t want to merge the Flinders Island Council with any other because it is an island, but surely one councillor per 111 ratepayers is ridiculous, and tantamount to lining pockets for no net gain.

Even Break O’Day Council has nine councillors serving 6194 and George Town has nine serving a population of 6636.

The Local Government Association of Tasmania must take a lead and make some glaringly obvious savings.

Otherwise someone else will do it for them. Tasmania is a small, diverse state, but no more diverse than some other states.

We are persisting with luxuries we cannot afford, and which other states ditched long ago.

Tasmania cannot expect support from other states on issues like GST distribution when our leaders and politicians have no desire to reform the way Tasmania governs itself.

– BARRY PRISMALL, deputy editor

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Getting medical help was difficult

The statue of William Russ Pugh, by Peter Corlett, which is now a feature in Prince’s Square, Launceston.LAUNCESTON’S first hospital was a rudimentary structure reputed to have been on the corner of Cameron and George streets, a site now occupied by Holy Trinity Church.
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For soldiers and convicts in Launceston’s very early days it would have been the only place where medical help was available.

Between 1820 and 1840 His Majesty’s Colonial Hospital in Launceston was moved to various locations before finding a home in a two-storey building in Balfour Street.

By 1851 it was called the Cornwall Hospital and Infirmary and housed in a former hotel on the corner of Balfour and Wellington streets.

None of the early facilities were highly regarded by local residents according to historian L. S. Bethell in his book The Story of Port Dalrymple.

“In the early days, when one was sick, to betake oneself to H.M. Colonial Hospital at Launceston was an act of despair … the citizens preferred to die in their own beds.”

The innovative and progressive Launceston doctor William Russ Pugh lamented the situation in a letter to the editor of The Examiner on October 11, 1848.

“It was a fact too notorious to be questioned, or easily forgotten, that the free community of the northern portion of this island, in cases of sickness and distress, was altogether unprovided for.”

Dr Pugh had established his own hospital in 1845, with Dr James Grant, called St John’s Hospital and Self Supporting Dispensary in a house on the corner of Charles and Frederick streets, which today is known as Morton House.

Patients paid an annual subscription, which allowed them to consult a doctor when needed.

Dr Pugh pioneered the use of ether as an anaesthetic in Australia in an operation at his hospital on June 7, 1847, but a shortage of subscribers led to its eventual closure.

Continued public lobbying saw the construction of the first Launceston General Hospital, which opened in 1863.

•Local historians Jenny Gill, Anne Bartlett and Dr John Paull will discuss Launceston’s early medical history on the first day of the LGH Sesquicentenary Medical History and Research Seminar at the LGH on Wednesday, May 15.

Information and registration forms for the seminar are available from Ms Lou Partridge 63487035.

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