EPMU rallies for work rights

August 8, 2008

The Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union’s Work Rights Wage Drive stopped for a rally in Oamaru on Wednesday.

It attracted about 100 people  and was one of 25 organised by the union and launched its work rights checklist.

The Oamaru Mail quoted EPMU national secretary Andrew Little as saying the wage drive and checklist were to ensure working people understood the importance of their rights.

Oamaru EPMU delegate Dave Snow told the workers to make their voices heard at this year’s election.

How they do that and how much they spend doing it will depend on the outcome of the National Party’s High Court challenge of the Electoral Commission’s decision to register the union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party and one of their largest donors, as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act.

Murray McCully explained in his weekly newsletter that:

Registration will entitle them to spend $120,000 attacking the National Party, which, due to the constraints of the EFA, will not be able to respond.

The High Court case looks solid. The EPMU is claiming not to be “involved in the administration of the affairs”  of the Labour Party, within the meaning of the EFA.  If the High Court upholds the registration, there will be immediate applications from several organisations that are not “involved in the administration of the affairs” of the National Party Current favourites from mccully.co readers are the Citizens Opposed to the Political Activities of the EPMU, and the Not The Spencer Trust. So, either way, the High Court decision will produce an interesting outcome.

However, until the court decides the union, and any other groups whose ability to campaign rests on the decision, are left in limbo. That’s not conducive to democracy at any time and even less so when the election is a maximum of 14 weeks away.


What is a journalist?

August 8, 2008

Cyril Connolly said: Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grapsed at once.

He died in 1974 so we can’t ask him to define blogging. But Vernon Small  is confused because he no longer has a robust definition for a journalist and he asks: 

Do bloggers do journalism? Or do we need a new definition of journalism that allows some sorts of blogging but not others …. since I seem to be blogging right now.

My answer is some journalists are bloggers, some are not; some blogging is journalism, some is not. Blogging is a new medium of communication different in many ways from but complimentary to older forms such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

All of these have people writing for them, some of whom are journalists, some of whom aren’t, some get paid for it, some don’t; some write well, some don’t; and some of what they write is journalism and some isn’t.

Small says he would find it hard to recommend a blogger be given accreditation to the press gallery. I have reservations about this because it appears to be restricting freedom of expression because of the of the medium used to communicate. However, you define journalism it ought to take account of what is done, and possibly how well, but not the medium used to do it.

Hat tip:  Inquiring Mind and Kiwiblog.

Update: The Hive has entered the debate.

UPdate 2: So has No Right Turn. and Update 3 Jafapete has too.


Herceptin, health & politics

August 8, 2008

Was Pharmac’s decision to not fund 12 month courses of herceptin based on clinical evidence or financial necessity?

Women’s Health Action Trust director Jo Fitzpatrick accepts it was clinical: 

[she] “reluctantly” spoke out yesterday in support of the decision, “because of concern at the high level of public misunderstanding about the drug and its effects”.

“Herceptin is promoted as the magic bullet for early breast cancer treatment,” she said. “People used to think – and many still do – that Her-2 positive breast cancer can and will be cured by Herceptin.

“We wish that was true but the evidence just isn’t there and people need to know that. At its best, 87 women in every 100 taking Herceptin get no benefit from the drug at all and may be harmed by it.”

And:

District health boards’ spokesman Murray Georgel said the lack of convincing evidence for 12-month treatments meant the decision was one “DHBs can understand”.

“In that context, and given the ability of DHBs to improve health through other interventions, it would have been concerning if Pharmac had come to DHBs and asked that the 12-month treatment be funded.”

But:

Other groups were scathing of the decision. Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chairwoman Libby Burgess called it “a cruel blow for women and their families”.

She said the drug was “life-saving”, and Pharmac’s decision was “shameful” and “simply inhumane”.

Comments on my previous post  on the issue are also divided with Ed Snack saying it is important to judge the issue on science not emotion and he points to this link as a starting point. However Macdoctor  evaluates clinical trials and concludes Pharmac’s decision was a budget one.

But then NZ Conservative and several comments at No Minister  back Pharmac.

I am not qualified to argue about the science so I’ll move to the politics and this from TVNZ:

Diane Edwards from Herceptin Heroines says “there’s not a woman in this country that can afford to vote for this government after today’s decision”.

However over at the Hand Mirror Stargazer points out:

… national are saying they will fund the full 12 month course but legally would not be allowed to do so. unless, of course, they change the law to allow political interference in medical decisions.

She is right, Pharmac is independent and there are good reasons why neither the the Minsiter of Health nor the government can intervene. But that will be lost on most people because emotion beats facts in politics. Pharmac is regarded as an arm of government so unpopular decisions from the former will rebound on the latter.

Furthermore, Keeping Stock  points out the only other OECD countries not to fund 12 month courses of the drug are Turkey and Mexico.

As any parent will tell you “nearly everyone else does it” is not a convincing argument. But if most other OECD countries fund the treatment because they can afford to, even if the science is not settled; and we don’t because we can’t afford to then regardless of Pharmac’s independence we are justified in holding the government to account.


On the Swag

August 8, 2008

I came across this Friday’s poem in Dear To Me 100 New Zealanders write about their favourite poems, a fundraising project for Amnesty International.

 

On the Swag was chosen by Sir Doug Graham because, he said, “it reinforces and indeed won’t let us forget, that one of the most fundamental duties we all have is to put out a helping hand to those in need”.

 

 

On the Swag

 

His body doubled

       under the pack

       that sprawls untidily

       on his old back

       the cold wet dead-beat

       plods up the track.

 

The cook peers out

       ‘oh curse that old lag –

        here again

        with his clumsy swag

        made of a dirty old

        turnip bag’

 

‘Bring him in cook

        from the grey level sleet

        put silk on his body

        slippers on his feet,

        give him fire

        and bread and meat.

 

‘Let the fruit be plucked

        and the cake be iced,

        the bed be snug

        and the wine be spiced

        in the old cove’s night-cap:

        for this is Christ.’

 

– R.A.K. Mason –


Why not sell the lot?

August 8, 2008

As usual Jim Hopkins’ column is worth reading in full but here’s a taste:

By then, Kiwibank will be but a memory. But while it’s not – and with the enviable pageantry of the Beijing Festival of Steroids about to begin – let us pose a heretical question. Why not sell Kiwibank, for crying out loud? It’s not like it’s Auckland Airport or anything. It’s just a bank! And if they did sell it they might have a closing-down sale first, with specials on money – 25 per cent off $100 bills; two $10s for the price of one, that sort of thing.

Come to think of it, why stop at Kiwibank? Let’s sell the Post Office too. And the ACC. And the b****y Corrections Department. Yes, especially the b****y Corrections Department.

Couldn’t run a cellphone network in a prison, that lot. So sell ’em!!! Sell ’em all!! Sell ’em to the Chinese. They’ve already got all the power poles and wires and substations and meter boxes in the whole of flaming Wellington!!!! And they didn’t need a secret agenda to buy those!! Just a nice, friendly gummint ready to cut a deal.

So let’s sell the entire bureaucracy to Mr Phing Ah Me Bob from Hong Kong. Then he’ll be his own best customer.


Radical thought – put patients first

August 8, 2008

Now here’s a radical thought – Dunedin Hopsital’s emergency department wants to put patients first.

The simple premise of putting the patient first may help to fix Dunedin Hospital’s emergency department woes and save up to 50% wastage at the hospital, the Otago District Health Board was told yesterday.

Emergency specialist Dr Tim Kerruish asked the board not to make any radical changes in the emergency department until a pilot project to increase efficiency and optimise “patient flow” through the hospital had been given a chance.

The project is based on car manufacturing company Toyota’s way of thinking, which involves putting the customer – or in the hospital’s case, the patient – first, as well as looking at how the entire hospital system works and getting everybody working together.

Aiming for perfect patient care should underpin how and why everything was done at the hospital, Dr Kerruish said.

Wastage in hospitals was also “extraordinary” and common estimates of 40% to 50% wastage were probably applicable to Dunedin Hospital, he said.

Otago is one of two district health boards which are trialling the “Optimising the Patient Journey” project in their emergency departments.

I spent a lot of time in Dunedin Hopsital, sometimes more than a week at a time,  when my children were young. That is now a couple of decades ago, however more recent experiences of family and friends indicate that some things haven’t changed: the staff are wonderful but the system needs radical surgery.

Wary as I am of catch-phrases, the thinking behind “optimising the patient journey” sounds like a good idea for staff and patients. Especially as Dr Kerruish said it would come from staff generating ideas and solutions and did not require more resources.

Similar projects adopted in hospitals in United States and the United Kingdom had shown incredible achievements, Dr Kerruish said. Getting everybody working together would be crucial to the success of the project.

“The emergency department cannot fix its problems without help from the rest of the system. This includes GPs and other hospitals.”

For example, emergency department overcrowding was often the result of patients not being able to be transferred to wards which were full because ward patients had not been discharged early in the day.

My baby son had been a patient for about 10 days when I was told he’d be discharged “tomorrow”. When tomorrow came we waited all day for the consultant to come so we could go. By the time he got to us it was early evening but it was the middle of winter and we were 120 kilometres from home so he said it would be safer for us to stay another night. It was early afternoon the following day before we finally left – so we spent nearly a day and a half longer than we should have and the hospital had incurred the extra cost of that.

Another common problem was the way things were done often went back “years and years” and had never changed.

“We never take anything away . . . we just add it to it. We end up with this very complicated system and a lot of the time people don’t know why they’re doing stuff.”

Overseas experience showed staff bought into ideas when they could fix the “Why do I have to do this?” frustrations, Dr Kerruish said.

Putting patients first, simplifying the system, improving co-operation between departments, GPs and other hopsitals and allowing staff to fix the problems doesn’t sound difficult or expensive. I’m sure the friend’s daughter who spent all yesterday afternoon waiting in the emergency department would think it’s worth a try.


West Coast Trust dysfunctional

August 8, 2008

The Auditor Gerneral has called on trustees of the West Coast Development Trust to sort out their problems or stand down.

He says the Trust which was set up to administer $92 million given to the Coast to compensate for the ban on logging native forests, is so dysfunctional and divided that it can’t be trusted to do its job.

The auditor-general’s report released today paints a picture of trustees infighting with allegations of corruption being thrown around and counter-allegations of leaking confidential information.

The auditor-general said the situation was so serious that trustees should sort it out immediately or just stand down.

“Unlike other public entities with elected board, there is no other ready mechanism for resolving this level of dysfunction,” the report said.

“Until we see evidence that the group of trustees is able to take effective collective responsibility for the governance of the trust, we are unable to provide assurance that the trust is able to deliver fully on its purpose of generating sustainable employment opportunities and economic benefits for the people of the West Coast.”

A trust fund is a poor substitute for business and I suspect the logging ban may also have had negative environmental consequences.

The ban was a dog whistle political appeal to mainly urban, liberal, green (and Green) voters but I wonder if it was a not-in-my-back-yard approach to conservation which protects our forests but does more damage to others. The ban stopped the sustainable logging of native trees on the Coast, and the pest control which went with it. But has it also resulted in the increase of imported timber from clear-felled rain forests?


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