Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Sad stories

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines.

1. Big Rise In Kids Raised On Benefits -  The number of children living with beneficiaries rose just under 7% in the year to April 2009. The total number of unemployed is up nearly 9% over 3 months. These are serious numbers. The DomPost interviews two Wellingtonians, paedatric surgeon Brendon Bowkett - erroneously described as a paediatrician – and solo parent Deb Kilkelly.

Mr Bowkett believes access to “free” medical assessment for children in poorer areas of the community is vital. It is true that financial considerations are a factor in people not presenting to a doctor when they are seriously ill. But that is not the only factor. Often a family’s lack of funds available for medical care is a result of poor spending decisions and a lack of money being put aside for emergencies. I see it all the time where I work – people pleading poverty while flaunting luxury items such as iPods, mobile phones, pimped cars, cigarettes, jewellery and tattoos.

Solo parent Deb Kilkelly is sucking at least $272 every week from the taxpayer - who had no say in the conception of her child. She doesn’t like paying doctor’s bills. I wonder if she ever thought that if she had a child, it might one day require medical treatment? Has she looked at purchasing medical insurance? Has she shopped around for a less expensive doctor? Has she thought of using cloth nappies? Has she looked at Muriel Newman’s Oily Rag website?

Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett says New Zealand has a “generous” welfare system – for whom, Paula? For those forced to subsidise dysfunctional families and thus encourage more of them, or for those trapped on benefits where attempts to move into employment are penalised?

2. Family Wins Compo Fight For Meningitis Boy – Two issues here: firstly, doctors are clobbered not only if their intervention harms the patient, but if they choose not to intervene and the patient’s condition worsens. Secondly, doctors and other health professionals face double and triple jeopardy if their treatment is considered substandard.

This story is sad – a toddler contracts meningococcal disease and loses part of two limbs. A doctor fails to make the notoriously difficult diagnosis at first presentation – I can tell you that is every GP’s nightmare. The child later develops a rash suggestive of meningitis. The parents, apparently having been told by the doctor that the problem was not meningitis, delay presentation to the hospital, with tragic results.

ACC accept a claim for medical misadventure. This is overturned on appeal to the District Court. The doctor is landed with $3000 in costs. But here’s the kicker: according to the doctor, the Health and Disability Commissioner had already cleared him of making any error.

So there we have it. Despite being exonerated in one forum, the doctor can be punished in another. And let’s not forget the Human Rights Review Tribunal, yet another place where doctors can be hauled and put on trial. Triple jeopardy. Where’s the justice?

The good news is that ACC, the monopoly accident insurer we are forced to fund unless we want to go to prison, will now be paying compensation to the poor lad.

3. Wire-cutters Threat Over Paper Road – Sick of vandalism and abuse of his land, a farmer wants local government (the people who force him to allow others access across his property) or local Maori (the main users of this accessway) to pay for a fenced road across his land. The Central Hawkes Bay district council have suggested the landowner fork out $27,000 for fencing materials so that a new road can be built. The owner, quite rightly as I see it, wants the council to go to hell. It’s high time paper roads were sold or gifted to those on whose land they lie, with ownership established so that disputes like the one above would not even arise.

4. Wellington Trains On Track To $2.5m Blowout – The Wellington train service is losing money because of piss-poor

Service. What a surprise. Numbers using the service dropped by 8.5 percent. But don’t worry, the ratepayers captured by the greater Wellington Regional Council (including yours truly) will foot the bill. Do we get a chance to sack the incompetent KiwiRail operators? Not a chance. We just have to keep subsidising these losers, along with lifetime busybodies like Fran Wilde, Chris Laidlaw, Judith Aitken, John Burke, Sandra Greig and Ian Buchanan who sit on the GWRC using our money on projects we would never consider in our wildest dreams spending a cent of it on.

If no-one wants to use these substandard trains, then wind the service up. Why should those of us who never use the trains be made to subsidise this inconvenient and outdated method of transport? If rail is such a good option, people who use it won’t mind paying for it in full. Otherwise, put Michael Cullen’s train set back in the cupboard.        

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

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