Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Strength of Water.

SWMBO and the ol' probligo took themselves out yesterday evening to an early (though not matinee) showing of "The Strength of Water". If my heartfelt recommendation is sufficient to encourage you to see it then read no further. Go see it. It is well worth it.

Otherwise -

It is the story of a young lad (about 10) whose twin sister dies from an asthmatic attack in rather strange circumstances. He lives in a remote community on the west coast north of NZ (the Hokianga area to which the probligo repairs for the occasional r&r). The film starts with the portrayal of the family, the community, the landscape.. It is the latter that forms the greater part of the film. The way that Armagan Ballantyne has assembled the story in the hills, the mist, the rain, is very similar to Vincent Ward's "Vigil".

It is a reconciliation of mortality, death, and continuance. The boy realises that death means an end, when the pet hen he and his sister cared for is killed - as commercial hens are when they stop laying. From that point the weather lifts, the darkness of the scenery starts to lift. There is sunlight breaking through the cloud onto the sea.


Why did I write Helen Cato instead of Armagan Ballantyne ? HOW could I?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What really is wrong with NZ's health system?

If you thought that what I wrote about the US health system was "strong", then take a quick browse through Tracey Barnett's effort in last Saturday's Herald. (probligo health warning; this op-ed might endanger the health of well-meaning Americans). One of the milder cuts -
I love America. It's the only country in the world where citizens pack an AR15 to go a'courting their President. When an economy is stressed, the truly wacked fringes always manage to find centrestage.

I went back to visit family last month, and there was Old Glory, limping along with the biggest single tax revenue drop since the Great Depression, like Paris Hilton with maxed-out credit cards and nothing to wear.

Alongside, and regrettably not on the net, was a small table setting out the current health spends for eight nations as a percentage of GDP. A fair measure as it closely relates to average personal income and is devoid of currency considerations. So, from memory, NZ ranked about 4th on that list with 9.6% just behind Australia and Waaayyyy behind the US at something like 16%. Now that is truly, when you consider the size of the US defence budget and the fact that two concurrent wars is costing little more than twice that proportion, truly frightening thing to consider.

The point was made though, that at the present rate of increase health spending in NZ will reach 22% of GDP by the year 2020 and that is even more frightening.

John Armstrong applied his well-muscled left arm to what the government is currently trying to do.
Was there political interference? Or did the high-powered taskforce charged with reviewing the public health system tailor the final version of its report in full awareness of the acute political sensitivity over the health portfolio?

Or did the group's members simply change their minds at the last minute and drop some of the more contentious things they had been planning to recommend?
That is because draft copies of the report leave little doubt that something or someone persuaded the review group, which was chaired by former Treasury boss Murray Horn, to water down or remove some of its more controversial suggestions before the final version was presented to the minister.

Even in its final form, the report has a fair degree of political risk attached to it.

The review group's reform recipe would gut the Ministry of Health and set up a National Health Board which would be responsible for allocating funding of health services with the intention of improving access to services and hospital productivity.

The recommendations bear a marked resemblance to National's hugely unpopular health reforms of the early 1990s which were designed to get more efficiency into the delivery of health services by forcing hospitals to compete with one another.

...and so on.

There is a fairly large matter here in the middle though which has far more to do with medicine and only a secondary look in at money.

I think, with some certainty, that the Bible refers to "man's allotted span" of "three-score years and ten". Now the ol' probligo isn't making any promises to pull the plug at his 71st birthday bash.

One does have to wonder at the western, Judeo-Christian, desire for eternal life in this world in preference to the next.

It is late, I am tired and cranky.

Is it any wonder that health budgets are inflated though, when faced with this kind of problem (once again from Saturday's Herald) -
The flood of alcohol-related hospital admissions during weekends is compromising the ability of hospital staff to tend to general admissions, doctors say.

The situation has prompted doctors to call for a rise in the age at which people can buy alcohol, The Press reported.

Wellington emergency department specialist Paul Quigley said large numbers of young people were coming in with alcohol-related injuries.

"This stuff is all preventable and it's very frustrating when you have people with heart pains or serious respiratory problems having to wait because staff are dealing with teenagers who have broken their wrist or been in a fight because they are drunk," he said.

One emergency department said patient numbers could double on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The bulk of admissions by people under 30 at weekends was directly related to alcohol, Dr Quigley said.

There was little remorse, and often those admitted appeared pleased with themselves.

Leave them in the gutter. What say you?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What really is wrong with America's health services?

In some respects it is quite sad to read the right-wing ranting of the US Right (aren't they always?) against the Obama administration's attempts to make something of the "health system".

First question that comes to the probligo's rather twisted mind is the perennial "Why does it need fixing? Every administration in living memory has tried to fix - with varying degrees of success - America's "public health system".

Be clear here, if the proposals of the Obama administration is patterned on the British National Health then America has every right to "be afraid, very afraid". But that does not answer or avoid the question.

OK, first up is this -
As the Remote Area Medical Foundation’s huge, free health clinic winds up its eight-day run at the Forum in Inglewood this evening, organizers said they expected to be able to treat all patients who were given wristbands – or refer them to doctors who will provide free care.

During the organization’s first venture into a large, urban city -- and its longest-running health clinic in its 25-year history -- volunteer dentists and doctors helped deliver free medical care to thousands of patients. Many seeking care camped out overnight or slept in their cars; hundreds of others were turned away. Some had traveled from as far as San Francisco and Phoenix for the chance to be treated.

Final tallies were not available, but doctors performed an array of medical services, from root canals and mammograms to HIV tests and the dispensing of free eyeglasses.

Those final tallies are posted on Ramusa's website -
RAM LA Results

The following totals are from patient records in hand and, due to an unknown number of misplaced papers and lost data, are lower than actual numbers.

6,344 patients registered for 14,561 patient encounters (approximately 2.3 services per patient)

3,827 volunteers, largely non-medical support (It is believed that patient encounters could have doubled if medical professionals licensed in states other than California had been allowed to volunteer their services at this clinic.)

3,182 dental patients – 2, 274 teeth extracted and 5,438 teeth saved, 1,889 cleanings

2,266 vision care patients with 1,984 pairs of prescription eyeglasses made on site and fitted

8,775 general medical visits

Total value of care: $2,821,383

Thanks to everyone who made it possible for so many to receive so much during Remote Area Medical’s 8-day free clinic at The Forum in Inglewood, CA.

All that in 8 days.

But what is this saying? This is their Mission Statement -
The Remote Area Medical® (RAM) Volunteer Corps is a non-profit, volunteer, airborne relief corps dedicated to serving mankind by providing free health care, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.
Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical® is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization. Volunteer doctors, nurses, pilots, veterinarians and support workers participate in expeditions (at their own expense) in some of the world's most exciting places. Medical supplies, medicines, facilities and vehicles are donated.

OK, so Inglewood, CA is a remote part of the US, huh!

The other side of this came (serendipitously) through me old mates at ALD.

What are the alternatives to public (read government) health resources? Obviously, "private" providers. Capitalism in action. And this is how it works . OK, I accept that Wendell Potter might have a few irons to heat, but if a half of what he says is fact then it gives a fairly chilling picture.
...Potter, who is from Tennessee, read in a local paper about a free healthcare expedition being held in Wise County, Virginia. He decided to check it out. Walking through the fairground gates, Potter saw hundreds of people waiting in the rain while physicians attended to patients in animal stalls or on gurneys lying on the rain-soaked pavement. Tents had been pitched across the fairground lawns, creating a scene “like something that could’ve been happening on a battlefield or in a war-torn country.” Tears mixed with the rain to cloud Potter’s vision. “What I thought was: ‘Is this the United States?’ It was so remote from my reality. It just seemed impossible.”

RAM in action again...

But the most chilling thought expressed by Potter rings with total clarity in my personal experience of health insurance here in NZ.

Why are there so many in the US who do not have (private) health insurance? Many to most probsbly can not afford it. That simple.

Potter also provides a good reason why some people can not afford private insurance.

It is because they have been priced off the market... Read the whole interview.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our mid-winter break...

This being somewhere near the middle of the long stretch from Queen's Birthday weekend and Labour Day SWMBO and the probligo took themselves off to Te Aroha for a day trip to one of our favourite waters for a good soak and lunch. Travel time is about 1 1/2 hours and a fairly good drive at that. Weather was atrocious the night before but we went anyway nothing daunted.

The photo is a montage, of the storm cloud clearing the top of Te Aroha, and the rain still persisting down in the Orongomai to the south. It would have been a far more dramatic photo had I been able to take it when we arrived about 3 hours earlier; but it will do.

A holiday to remember...

One of the more amusing little items in the news this past week concerned a young Australian man who was visiting one of NZ's more well-known winter resorts.

After a very good day's ski'ing, he met up with a nice young lady in a bar. They agreed to repair to her room and after an evening of adult recreation fell asleep. Some while later he awoke, wandering around the hotel corridors stark naked and somewhat confused.

After fumbling around for a bit he discovered a door that was not locked, entered after assuming that the only unlocked door was the one he had left, and crashed out on the end of the bed.

He was roused by a woman's screams.

Wrong room...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just can not help wondering...

... how many of those who promote the "conspiracy" about Obama's birth certificate would recognise the very direct parallel with those who promoted the "wag the dog" conspiracy that Bush and co engineered 9/11.

Sad, really!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

This one for Al,
The government under pretext of security and progress, liberated us from our land, resources, culture, dignity and future. They violated every treaty they ever made with us. I use the word “liberated” loosely and sarcastically, in the same vein that I view the use of the words “collateral damage” when they kill innocent men, women and children. They describe people defending their homelands as terrorists, savages and hostiles . . . My words reach out to the non-Indian: Look now before it is too late—see what is being done to others in your name and see what destruction you sanction when you say nothing. --Leonard Peltier, Annual Message January 2004 (Leonard Peltier is now serving 31st year as an internationally recognized Political Prisoner of the United States Government)

It raised the obvious question in my mind, "Who is Leonard Peltier?".

From Wikipedia -
Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is an American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who was convicted and sentenced in 1977 to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who were killed during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. There is considerable debate over Peltier’s guilt and the fairness of his trial. Some supporters and organizations consider him to be a political prisoner. Amnesty International has stated that "Although he has not been adopted as a prisoner of conscience, there is concern about the fairness of the proceedings leading to his conviction and it is believed that political factors may have influenced the way the case was prosecuted."[1] Numerous lawsuits have been filed on his behalf but none have succeeded. Peltier was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg in Pennsylvania until January, 2009, when he was moved to Canaan Federal Penitentiary in Waymart, Pennsylvania. He was sent back to Lewisburg after he was severely beaten by other inmates in Canaan.

I am not going to argue any side on this. I have read the statement made by the lead FBI investigator at Peltier's recent parole hearing (first since 1993). It does not make for pretty reading. I know nothing of the background to the case, the investigation and the Court hearing. I am going to stand aside.

The message is for Al. I certainly agree with the sentiment.