What’s Going On?

Blimey I’ve been busy in the last six months, so a bit slack in updating this blog.  I’ve been:

Blogs coming on some of these!  Here’s photos of some of our activities in the last few months:

We welcomed another in the Lambert dynasty.  Rod's Mum, Irene, pictured with baby Alice, Christmas 2013

We welcomed another in the Lambert dynasty. Rod’s Mum, Irene, pictured with baby Alice, Christmas 2013

Rod and I were lucky enough to attend the Australian Open at Rod Laver Arena.  The match was between Bernard Tomic (AUS) and Roger Federer (SUI).  Suffice to say Roger beat Bernard, but the score belied the intensity of the match.

Rod and I were lucky enough to attend the Australian Open at Rod Laver Arena. The match was between Bernard Tomic (AUS) and Roger Federer (SUI). Suffice to say Roger beat Bernard, but the score belied the intensity of the match.

I went to The Lodge on Australia Day 2013 and was lucky enough to have a photo taken with the ACT Chief Minister and the Prime Minister!I went to The Lodge on Australia Day 2013 and was lucky enough to have a photo taken with the ACT Chief Minister and the Prime Minister!

This is about six photos sewn together.  I took the photos from Mt Ainslie - soon to be Marion's View - on Canberra Day, our Centenary, 2013

This is about six photos sewn together. I took the photos from Mt Ainslie – soon to be Marion’s View – on Canberra Day, our Centenary, 2013

Mum, John and Christine received certificates for 50 year residency in Canberra in March 2013.  Pictured with ACT Chief Minister, Ms Katy Gallagher, MLA.  She was incredibly generous with her time with my relatives.

Mum, John and Christine received certificates for 50 year residency in Canberra in March 2013. Pictured with ACT Chief Minister, Ms Katy Gallagher, MLA. She was incredibly generous with her time with my relatives.

I was invited to the Prime Minister's Sydney residence, Kiribilli House, for the launch of DonateLife week by the First Bloke.  I can understand why the Howards wanted to live here!

I was invited to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, Kiribilli House, for the launch of DonateLife week by the First Bloke. I can understand why the Howards wanted to live here!

 

Thalia married her beau and became Thalia McGee. Here with our good pal Rosemary, and Tom's pal, Alex.  A beautiful wedding on Canberra's centenary weekend.

Thalia married her beau and became Thalia McGee. Here with our good pal Rosemary, and Tom’s pal, Alex. A beautiful wedding on Canberra’s centenary weekend.

Tom in the glider at Mt Beauty at Easter 2013; Rod running along side.  Fabulous weekend!Tom in the glider at Mt Beauty at Easter 2013; Rod running along side. Fabulous weekend!

Mt Beauty was a stunning choice for Easter 2013.  Rod, Mum, Tom, Natalie and I had a fabulous Easter in luxurious surroundings.

Mt Beauty was a stunning choice for Easter 2013. Rod, Mum, Tom, Natalie and I had a fabulous Easter in luxurious surroundings.

And despite the fact that he's blind, Trapper continues to be a key member of our family!

And despite the fact that he’s blind, Trapper continues to be a key member of our family!

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Update on Organ Donation to 31 October 2012

The data to 31 October 2012 are out, showing that 285 generous families agreed to donate their loved ones’ organs this year.  The projection to 31 December is 342; disappointingly a small increase on 2011’s total of 337.  But it is still upwards, rather than downwards.

The big change will be in NSW, a jurisdiction that has traditionally lagged behind the rest of Australia.  This is because it has used the driver’s licence register as one of the tools to indicate consent or no consent.  We know that renewal or application for driving licence has absolutely nothing to do with what people want when they die, so this is a good move on the part of the NSW Health Minister.

I fully expect a dramatic increase in NSW numbers in the coming month so that more Australians’ lives can be saved or improved.

You can get the traditional data at the relevant website, but here’s my calculations of rolling averages so that you can see what’s going on.

Oh, well done to Tasmania, reaching the highest ever number of organ donors.  The Northern Territory has also outdone itself as has my own jurisdiction of the ACT.

Busy Time

Over the last fortnight I’ve hosted our son’s engagement party, flown to Melbourne, driven to Lorne (Great Ocean Road in the mighty state of Victoria), driven back to Melbourne, flown back to Canberra, flown to Adelaide via Sydney, flown to Melbourne, driven to San Remo (near Phillip Island, Victoria) and driven back to Canberra via an overnight stay in Merimbula on the far south coast of New South Wales.

The engagement party was a joint effort from my soon to be daughter in law’s parents, Bernard and Vicki, as well as Rod and me (yes, me is correct; not I).  Here’s the nicest photo from the day:

Tom, Natalie and the Fabulous Engagement Cake!

The Lorne sojurn was for a family wedding:  Sarah Bell married Ivan Skidmore.  They’re a lovely couple as you can see below.

Ivan & Sarah, 10 Nov 2012

And here’s the beach they were married on:

Lorne Beach, Victoria

And finally, I got the photo of the wedding, despite Robert (the official photographer) being engaged to do good work!  The crying father of the bride just after he’d handed over his daughter:

I went to Adelaide to attend the SA Australian of the Year event.  Dr Gerry O’Callaghan, the inaugural National Medical Director for the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority, was in the final four; a worthy nominee indeed.  He didn’t win, but it was a great achievement to be in the final four.  Here he is with the fabulous Bronwyn:

Mrs Bronwyn and Dr Gerry O’Callaghan

I stayed at Glenelg and had a fabulous couple of days at the beach.  It is a beautiful spot and I did tweet that if I wasn’t in love with Canberra I would probably love Glenelg!

The only problem I had on this trip was that Qantas couldn’t accommodate my oxygen machine so I was trussed into my seat like an animal.  I live in hope that I am able at some stage to speak with Qantas’ medical director.

Customers on oxygen need to be managed better than this.

San Remo was beautiful, although the odd headache was obtained.  Here’s the twins early in the evening!

Anne (young twin) and Helen (old twin)

AUSTRALIA’S ORGAN DONATION IN SEPTEMBER 2012

The data has been released up to September 2012 on organ donation for Australia, by jurisdiction. There were 256 generous families up to 30 September who donated their loved ones’ organs, resulting in a saving or improvement of life for 759 people. A truly phenomenal decision.

Given the backdrop of health reform, it is difficult to see why a couple of jurisdictions have not maintained their donor rates over a five year period. My graph (attached as a pdf but included below as a picture) shows that New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are lagging behind their best performances. Bear in mind that predominantly, those best performances were when the program of reform was just commencing. I’m not sure what’s happening there.

I have surmised previously that these jurisdictions are managing their health budget by reducing the number of organ donors.  All jurisdictions signed onto the reform of the organ donor sector.  The agreement included that the Commonwealth would pay for increase in organ donation, while jurisdictions would pay for what is called downstream issues, viz., the increase in transplants.

There was a large barney about this in September 2011 when the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne suspended its lung transplant program.  There were a range of reasons put forward for this suspension and I was amongst many in the community who loudly protested this.  As I said at the time, if there was an intention to increase organ donation, surely the bean counters in the Victorian Department of Human Services and the Alfred understood there would be an increase in transplantation.  My big concern was that the Alfred is not just for patients in Victoria, but for others across Australia.  Patients who were on that waiting list or hoping to get onto the list were devastated.  They had no hope.  Without hope there is no life.

Eventually, the Victorian Ombudsman conducted an inquiry into this matter and his report was tabled in the Parliament this week.  It shows that:

  • two patients died during the suspension of the program;
  • one set of lungs were declined;
  • some units work outside agreed protocols.

While the clinicians stated that they did not consider that anyone was desperately ill at that time, nevertheless from the bleachers I have concerns about the people who may have benefited from a transplant, their families and the concomitant ability to list new people.

Based on the data to 30 September 2012, we can expect that around 342 families will make the ultimate decision to donate their loved ones’ organs by 31 December 2012; a minor increase on 337 in 2011.

PHULEEZE

The Macquarie Radio Network (MRN) has has announced a temporary suspension of advertising for Alan Jones’ breakfast show. This follows the decision by Mercedes Benz in the last 24 hours to cease advertising on the same show, but importantly, to ask for the return of the motor vehicle provided to Mr Jones as part of its advertising arrangements.

The two page statement from MRN is shallow at best, but insulting at worst, in the lack of understanding about what has happened here. The statement includes the following:

  • Mr Jones’ apology in relation to the disparaging comments about the Prime Minister’s father was “unambiguous and unconditional”.
  • The “avalanche” of criticism of Mr Jones has come from those who are not part of the regular audience.
  • This is “censorship via cyber-bullying”.
  • MRN generally and 2GB specifically operate in a regulated environment and is accountable to various authorities and to its audience.

The statement makes no mention of Mr Jones’ earlier comments about #destroyingthejoint.  It makes no reference to his track record of misogyny or vilification.  Its inference is that if 2GB’s audience is accepting of Mr Jones’ apology, then things are good.

I must have watched a different apology on national television.  The apology I saw was not unambiguous or unconditional.  I think the word “but” was used on numerous occasions.

Those who are not regular listeners to Mr Jones’ program have a right to demand action in relation to his comments.  It is the 2GB platform that enables him to reach people well beyond those who directly listen to him.  As such, Mr Jones has significant influence.

The regulatory environment is an interesting one.  I’m still waiting for a response to my complaint of early September about Mr Jones comments on 31 August 2012 (see my earlier blog).  2GB certainly has time on its side.  It can take up to 45 days to respond to my complaint, which will put the response into early November.

Well, Mr Tate, Chairman of MRN, things are not good.  I am not a regular listener but I will not allow anyone in Australia who has such wide influence to get away with the comments that have been made.  I will not stand by and have Mr Jones belittle and humiliate women, irrespective of their status.  I will do all I can to ensure that Mr Jones’ influence is removed. The first step should have been for Mr Jones to be stood down and then dismissed.  If that had occurred, there would not have been any need for this “unprecedented decision to suspend advertising in the Alan Jones Breakfast Show”.

Rest assured, Mr Tait:  until Mr Jones is stood down/dismissed, I will not rest.   You will then be able to reinstate your advertisers to tap into that “massive audience” that you are proud of.  I doubt that you’ll have any trouble recruiting a presenter who will engage with such an audience without feeling the need to stoop to misogyny of vilification.

This is not cyber bullying.  This is common sense about ensuring that people of influence do not have any opportunity to utter misogynistic or vilifying comments across our nation.

I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Oh:  and PS:  I bought a pile of stuff totalling $1,020 at Bing Lee the other day, not because they advertise with 2GB, but because they ceased advertising with the Alan Jones Breakfast Show.

Tonga

MAKING A GOOD HEALTH SYSTEM GREAT : USING THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS

Hmm, that went well.  The McKeon Review was established late in 2011 to recommend a ten year strategic health and medical research plan for the nation. Many medical research institutes, researchers and patients (sometimes called consumers) made submissions.  In relation to the last category, some of these submissions were under the umbrella of consumer organisations, while others were individual.

I led the development of a submission that represented a group of six people who had served on National Health & Medical Research Council committees during the 2009-2012 triennium.  We weren’t representing the NHMRC, but we were using our collective wisdom to provide input to the Review.

The gist of our submission was:

  1. Great strides have been made in medical research over the years, but clearly there is more to be done.  In order to stop medical research becoming a political football, funds should be quarantined to support medical research.  Drug companies should also contribute to a pool of research funding.
  2. All health and medical research should be filtered through NHMRC so as to ensure we are targeting research, not duplicating efforts and removing competition between the Australian Research Council and the NHMRC.  Ultimately, the outcome will be better health care that is evidence based.
  3. One of the cornerstones for the future in health and medical research is that patients want to be more involved as partners rather than as objects (see my previous blog).  NHMRC has developed a consumer participation statement which is poorly understood or taken up by researchers.  An implementation plan that genuinely involves consumers is the important next step.  Consumers need to be part of the agenda setting for research, mostly because we cannot afford curiosity research.
  4. The senior health and medical research workforce does not make enough use of women in that sector.  Most of the senior grants go to men.  Women don’t apply for grants for a range of reasons, and this process needs changing.  A blog on this topic by Discover Magazine is worth a read.
  5. Recent health reform initiatives have seen many new organisations developed, each of which has its own agenda.  We need linkages between these new organisations and the health and medical research sector so that our collective focus is on ensuring that Australia has a high quality, evidence based, health care service that is cost effective and easily accessible.
  6. Australia’s role as a good citizen in relation to global health needs a better focus so that our aid dollars are appropriately targeted.

The consultation paper that the McKeon Review has issued for public comment (comments close on 31 October 2012) ticks building the NHMRC to the pre-eminent organisation it is supposed to be but has made fleeting reference to patients.  In the Review’s vision for better health through research (p.10), sadly patients don’t get a look in:

However, patients do make Exhibit 7 (p. 16), noting that the health and medical research sector is complicated and comprises many stakeholders.  Unfortunately, the patients are at the bottom, rather than at the top or in the centre or embedded:

I will write to the McKeon Review, but I thought we had come a lot further than this by 2012.  It would make a grown girl weep, really.

PS:  Since publishing this blog, it has been republished at Croakey.