Regarding the Geraldton hospital upgrade promise from the Nationals

Last week the National Party made an announcement pertaining to the Geraldton Regional Hospital. Their full media release is at the end of this article. 

Paul Brown, current state upper house member and National Party candidate for the lower house seat of Geraldton in the upcoming state election, stood on the steps of the local hospital and promised that if the Nationals are elected at the March 2017 state election, they will spend $115 million of Royalties for Regions money on an upgrade to the Geraldton Regional Hospital. 

However, it's clear that the National Party have no chance of being elected to form government in their own right, and this being the case, we questioned whether the promise was meaningful or not. 

The Liberal Party and the Nationals have a strange relationship in Western Australia. While they have a coalition of sorts, they avoid using the term "coalition" as much as possible, and prefer to call their agreement an "alliance". They're bedfellows when it suits, and often opponents when it comes election time. 

The Labor party likes to paint the Nationals and Liberals as essentially the same choice, claiming the Nats are as culpable as the Liberal party for the lack of action of any hospital expansion over the last eight years. 

However, National members argue that the fact that an expansion is even needed on such a young hospital, can only be Labor's fault. It's a wonderfully messy political argument, and I'll do my best to walk you through it. 


First, a quick rewind for newcomers to Geraldton. 

Geraldton had a new hospital built back in 04/05. 

As far back as 2001 (and earlier) the Gallop Labor Government had been promising a new hospital to the people of Geraldton. Back in 2001 $35 million had been allocated for building the new hospital, and later in the year this figure increased to $39.5 million. 

By 2004 when development started, cost estimates had increased to $48 million. This meant the new health facilities in Moora were shelved to make funds available for the new Geraldton hospital. This number became $49 million in statements from Labor candidate Shane Hill in the run up to the 2005 state election, which Labor won.  

It's often quoted around Geraldton that the old hospital used to have more beds than the new one does. Even Paul Brown (Nationals) is on the record as saying that when the new hospital was built it was "essentially half the size of the hospital it replaced."


But is it true that the new hospital is half the size of the old one?

Here's what we found from a Q and A in WA Parliament from 2006:

Extract from Hansard [COUNCIL - Tuesday, 4 April 2006] p1046d-1047a
Hon Nigel Hallett; Hon Sue Ellery

GERALDTON HOSPITAL - BED CAPACITY
3253. Hon Nigel Hallett to the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health

  1. (1)  What was the bed capacity at the old Geraldton Hospital?

  2. (2)  What is the bed capacity for the new Geraldton Hospital?

Hon SUE ELLERY replied:

  1. The bed capacity at the old Geraldton Hospital was 88 (accommodating multi day and same day patients) with a bed average of 58 in 2003/04 and 53 in 2004/05.

  2. The current bed capacity of the new Geraldton Hospital is 78 and on the completion of stage 2 of the redevelopment in July 2006 will be 88 (accommodating multi day and same day patients). Since the opening of the new facility in September 2005 the bed average is 54. 

Certainly it may still be argued that the new hospital may be undersized, but it seems a stretch to say it was half the size of the hospital it replaced.


Nevertheless, upgrading the Geraldton hospital has been a hot topic for the last few elections, both state and federal. And there's been a fair bit of chatter in WA Parliament recently on the matter, as we head into election season. 


Here's a question in Parliament from MLC Darren West regarding the Hospital from 14 September:

Hon DARREN WEST to the minister representing the Minister for Health: 

I refer to the conflicting statements made by the Premier and the Minister for Health about the priority of upgrades to Geraldton Regional Hospital—GRH. 

  1. (1)  Is the stage 2 upgrade of GRH a priority for the Barnett Liberal–National government? 

  2. (2)  If yes to (1), when will construction of the stage 2 upgrades commence, when will construction commence of a mental health facility, and when will the co-location of St John of God Geraldton Hospital and the Geraldton Regional Hospital commence? 

  3. (3)  Have any funds been allocated in the 2016–17 budget for these works; and, if yes, how much? 

  4. (4)  Have any funds been allocated in the forward estimates for these works; and, if yes, how much? 

  5. (5)  If no to (1), why not? 

Hon DONNA FARAGHER replied: 

I thank the member for some notice of the question. 

  1. (1)  Further redevelopment of the Geraldton Health Campus is a priority. 

  2. (2)  A business case is required to be developed for consideration by government before time frames are determined and funding allocated. The concept master plan for Geraldton Health Campus includes enabling the potential future co-location of a private provider. 

(3)–(4) No.
(5) See answer (2). 


So in a nutshell, despite the Geraldton Health Campus redevelopment being claimed as a "priority" by the current state government, no funding has been allocated for it nor has any business case been done on the merits and needs of such a redevelopment. 


Here's a statement made by National Party leader Brendan Grylls on 12 October 2016 in Parliament:

"The Geraldton Hospital, which was built by the Labor Party in its term in government, is now too small and the community is calling for a bigger one. It got that decision wrong and did not futureproof Geraldton, which is why so much criticism abounds of the Labor Party’s time in government from 2001 to 2008. It could not make the right decisions, and now, less than eight years on, we are talking about needing to invest again. That is classic policy failure when a party does not plan and does not get it right."

Here's a recent statement made to Parliament by Labor member Darren West, Member for the Ag Region:

20 October 2016

"In 2005, a new hospital was opened to replace the 1960s version that had served us well. That new hospital was built always with the intention of expansion, because Geraldton is one of two regional cities that have a private hospital; the other being Bunbury. It is important that both those health services remain viable and provide a service to the public. If we had built a massive hospital in Geraldton, it would have affected the viability of the St John of God Geraldton Hospital. The Geraldton community thinks it is important to have both hospitals, so a decision was made in 2000 to build stage 1 of Geraldton Hospital small enough so that there is capacity in the town for the two hospitals combined on a scale that enables the private hospital to continue to function and not be closed. There would be no real gain to the community if one large hospital was built and the other closed. It was always intended there would be a stage 2 development and that other services would be added to that hospital. It is a fantastic facility. There have been criticisms about it being too small, but I think the people who say that are quite insular and narrow-minded in their thinking."
...

"The Labor government had a plan for health service delivery in Geraldton and delivered on that plan, and that is a very important point to make. The contrast with this government is that it does not really have a plan. It has committed to a lot of things and not delivered them. I refer to the front page of The Geraldton Guardian of 6 September 2013. A very firm commitment was made to the people of Geraldton. I am holding up that front page, which shows the chap on the left, who is now the Leader of the National Party, and the fellow on the right, who is the Mayor of the City of Greater Geraldton. They made, as the headline states, a “Last-Minute $120m Hospital Plan” and if elected, they would build a hospital in Geraldton. They were duly elected and we have not seen a new hospital built in Geraldton."

...

Nonetheless, I saw that as a positive. I was told that consultation was underway and that it would be done in conjunction with the Mid West Development Commission and the Department of Health. Off we go—the review was undertaken about a year ago and was due to be finished in February. With that in the back of my mind, I started to wonder: Where is the review? What has happened? What are the outcomes? On Tuesday, 18 October last week, I asked: where is the review? I was told that the review could not be tabled because it was not finished. A review of health infrastructure in Geraldton that was due to be finished in February is still not completed. Not only have we gone from a plan to a review, but we cannot even manage to finish the review eight months after it was due to be completed! I guess members can work out why I am starting to be sceptical about the government’s commitment to health service delivery in Geraldton.

In Parliament yesterday—Wednesday, 19 October—I asked when the review had begun, because I wondered if it had actually really begun, and why there had been a delay and what funds may be available in the budget process for this important piece of infrastructure in Geraldton. Can members imagine my surprise when I found out yesterday, eight months after the review was due to be finished, that there is no funding available? There are no allocations available in the budget or the forward estimates for this piece of infrastructure that was a central part of a plan in 2013, which was then subject to review but now will not happen at all because there is no funding in the budget. The public gets very cynical when members of Parliament make promises that they have no intention of keeping and walk away from them. Of course the Geraldton community is upset about this government’s handling of the health portfolio and the notion of Geraldton regional hospital stage 2. I am quite convinced that before the next state election the government will go back to this plan. There will be a plan. Even though there is no money and there has been no review, there will be a plan. Hon Paul Brown has already made utterances about $50 million for a hospital in Geraldton, but I can tell the Geraldton community that it is not true because I have followed up the plan, I have followed up the review and I have asked the questions—there is no money. It is not a priority for this government. I think that is very sad. The community is not only missing out on an important piece of health infrastructure that is due, but it is also being dudded. 


Paul Brown responded to statements made by Darren West in Parliament:

The member absolutely knows that those comments are misleading, given that the person standing to the right of the Leader of the National Party, Brendon Grylls, was a candidate for the federal seat of Durack at the time, not the mayor. He was running in a federal election and he was making a commitment to the people of Geraldton and the people of Durack to partner with the WA Nationals and the Leader of the National Party, Brendon Grylls, and go to Canberra, if he was elected to the seat of Durack, and forcefully argue the case for funding for Geraldton Hospital. He did not get elected. No matter what the member on the other side might say, he did not get elected. Melissa Price, the Liberal candidate, was elected as the federal member for Durack.
The reason the Nationals’ candidate did not get elected was that the Labor Party chose to preference against him. Only two people, the Leader of the Nationals and Shane Van Styn, who was a candidate for Durack, made a commitment to the hospital. If health services and the expansion of the hospital in Geraldton were such a high priority, as the member continues to say all the time, why would the Labor Party not commit to the only person who made a commitment to the hospital during the federal election? At the end of the day, when he ran as a candidate for Durack in the 2013 federal election, the Labor Party preferenced against him. When the member stands up and says that he did not keep the commitment, it is misleading for him to suggest that at the time he was running as a candidate for mayor. He is now the mayor, but that was not the commitment that he made. He made the commitment as a candidate for Durack. He was not elected. That election commitment was not able to be kept because the Labor Party preferenced Melissa Price. 
...
Interestingly enough, I will tell Hon Martin Aldridge where the former Labor government got the money from. It got the money with a budget blowout, which meant that the Moora Hospital did not get built at that time. It used $6.3 million that was supposed to go to the Moora Hospital. The budget blew out so much because of union activism. The unions need to be fed and watered, and they need to have something to put back into the Labor coffers as another election commitment, because they got fed and watered. The Labor government chose not to build Moora Hospital. The people of Moora had over seven years saved $360 000 of their own funds to contribute to the hospital, and the hospital was pulled out from under them. Moora Hospital was delayed by many years because those funds went to the over-budget, time blow-outs and service and size reductions delivered through the then new Geraldton Hospital. I quote an article that appeared in Farm Weekly at the time —
MOORA shire president Michael Bates has called on country people to stand up for their rights and be more vocal in seeking funding for vital community services, following last week’s shock decision by the State Government not to fund the town’s new $6.3 million hospital. 
...

Rather than Labor Party members standing up here and in public on many occasions, lauding themselves about funding a new hospital, they should be absolutely embarrassed. They should be embarrassed. The only reason the Geraldton Hospital was built was so that Geoff Gallop, a boy from Geraldton, was not run out of town; he could actually walk the streets of Geraldton safely without being run out of town. The former Labor government did so well in building that over-budget, over-time hospital with a reduction in specialist services that it was kicked out. It actually got kicked out. Everybody thought it did such a good job after it had completed the hospital that it lost that seat at the very next election. 

Regarding Stage 2 of the Geraldton Hospital, Paul Brown continued:

Rather than Labor Party members standing up, patting themselves on the back, and pointing the finger at us, they should talk about stage 2 of Geraldton Hospital. It was never designed and never planned for. The Labor Party was in government for eight years. In the 2008 budget, there was not one penny in the forward estimates for stage 2—the magic pudding that Hon Darren West keeps talking about. There were no plans, no designs, no drawings and no funding. Over eight years in government and over the four years of the 2008 forward estimates for the former Labor government’s last budget, there was not one cent put towards stage 2. It was a magic pudding. Hon Darren West keeps talking about it; it is a figment of his imagination. As a result of the lack of specialist services, we now have two or three Royal Flying Doctor Service flights a day going backwards and forwards to Perth delivering patients for specialist care, and there is increased demand on the patient assisted travel scheme. The footprint for Geraldton Hospital extends over Carnarvon, Meekatharra, Mt Magnet and Wiluna in the north midlands area. Those services cannot be provided from Geraldton because Labor members did not build the hospital big enough, they went against the wishes of the people of Geraldton, and they blew out the budget. They are a disgrace and an embarrassment. 


The person who currently holds the seat of Geraldton, Liberal MLA Ian Blayney, said recently to the Geraldton Guardian that he expected the matter to be settled during this term of Government. 

But time is running out, and, according to Darren West, the report that was promised by February is nowhere to be found. 


As you can see, Labor are arguing that the Nats should have done something by now based on their previous promises, Nats are arguing that it's Labor's fault that anything even needs doing, and the Libs seem to be quietly dodging the issue as much as possible, presumably either because there's actually no money to spend on the hospital, or that they want to make their own bold announcement closer to the election. 


We had a chat with Paul Brown regarding his promise to expand the Geraldton Regional Hospital. (Answers edited for brevity. Questions from Everything Geraldton in bold.)

An improved hospital has been promised in the past. Why didn’t Minister Terry Redman make it happen over the last three years?

There was no commitment made in the past. The previous commitment that everyone keeps referring to is the commitment by Shane Van Styn  when he was running for the federal seat of Durack. He did not win that seat. Melissa Price won that seat, and has not been able to achieve any funding from the Federal Government. In fact, last year when I met with Susan Ley, Minister for Health, and Melissa Price was at that meeting, she categorically ruled out any funding from the Federal Government into the Geraldton Regional Hospital. 

... Shane Van Styn was a candidate when he made that election commitment; he didn't win. So therefore, it was a Federal Election campaign commitment, he was unsuccessful, so this is my commitment. Terry and I made an (earlier) commitment of $50 million. We were looking for dollar for dollar funding from the Federal Minister, and at that time she ruled out funding. So now, a year later, I have been able to convince Terry (Redman) and Brendan (Grylls) of the need, and certainly I've listened to the people of Geraldton and the Mid West and they are demanding an upgrade.

If we are elected next year, we will ensure that through Royalties for Regions funding that ... we move immediately ahead with the redevelopment and expansion. 

Shane (Van Styn) also ran for the (State) seat of Geraldton at the last state election, and he also didn't win that, granted. But he also brought up "vote for me if you want the hospital upgraded"... Now Shane didn't win that election, so you could hardly hold Shane accountable, however... 

Shane was a candidate, and the difference is I am a member of Parliament, and I've been representing this area for four years and I've spoken to the people... I've been able to go and convince my Nationals colleagues and the Minister for Regional Development. So this is a commitment that's not made in a vacuum, we have a great understanding of the need, and we've made a $115 million commitment to the people of Geraldton and the Mid West. 

If I'm not successful, I'd be saying to you and to the people of Geraldton you need to go and speak to Ian Blayney and Lara Dalton (Labor candidate) and see what their commitments are to the people of Geraldton. Ian has been in office for eight years, and has been able to achieve zero focus on development of a hospital. I've been able to convince my partners and my colleagues in Government at the National Party to invest in the hospital. 

If Terry Redman, the Minister for Regional Development, has his fingers on the purse strings for Royalties for Region funding, couldn't he have funded the hospital redevelopment over the last three years?

We've funded an enormous amount of hospital infrastructure across regional Western Australia; Busselton, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Merredin, Narrogin, Northam, Katanning, Carnarvon, ...Karratha, Port Hedland Health Campus, and we've also introduced the Southern Inland Health initiative... to improve the health outcomes of people in the Wheatbelt. So I don't think anyone can say we haven't done enough in the health space. I would say, what conversations has Ian Blayney had with the Minister for Regional Development about focussing attention on to Geraldton and the health outcomes for Geraldton?

The Nats won't win Government in their own right. Isn't this commitment a waste of time unless the Liberal party also back it?

We're a balance of power party. We secured the balance of power in 2008, and with the balance of power we were able to secure a billion dollars a year for regional WA through the Royalties for Regions funds. We have fundamentally changed ... investment into communities in our regions. That is what balance of power brings. Balance of power is a very powerful bargaining chip when someone is looking at forming government with us after the next election. All indications are the Nationals will have the balance of power after the next election. We will use that to ensure a better outcome for regional WA. 

If we win the balance of power, then we are in a fantastic negotiating position. 

If the Nats win balance of power, but do NOT win the Geraldton seat, will Terry Redman still make the hospital upgrade happen?

That's a conversation you would need to have with Ian Blayney. My commitment is, if I win... 

I have it on very good authority, from Brendan and from Terry, that he (Ian Blayney) has never had a conversation with them, about investment into Geraldton. 

Hospital promises are starting to feel a bit like Oakajee to Geraldton residents. Every election, federal or state, we see photos of politicians standing in front of the hospital making commitments. Why should people pay attention to this announcement from the Nationals?

Because this is the first commitment I've made. I'm based here in Geraldton. My family lives here. My kids go to school here. I live, work and play in this town. I am leaving a safe upper house seat that I could sit in for the next 20 years, to run for the seat of Geraldton. This is my commitment to the people of Geraldton...

Shane made a commitment as a member for Durack, and he wasn't successful. The people of Geraldton and the Mid West need to look at that. They didn't back Shane, they backed Melissa (Price, Liberal party), and four years later we're still having a conversation about the Geraldton Regional Hospital when she said it was the top of her wish list. She has not been able to go and get funding...

A better hospital ultimately will mean better health outcomes for Mid West residents. What do you say to locals who feel like something as important as their HEALTH seems to have become a political negotiation tool?

Well I don't believe it has become a political negotiation tool. I've made a commitment. They can see that for what it is. I've made an honest, transparent commitment, so has my leader, Brendan Grylls. Terry Redman has supported that being Minister for Regional Development. And on the weekend, our whole party membership at the convention unanimously supported redevelopment of the Geraldton Regional Hospital. That is now National Party policy, not just a promise from me and Brendan. Take that for what it is. 

It's not a political football. I'm not into horse trading with the Liberals or Labor about this. I've made a rock solid commitment... 

If it comes to it, are you saying you're willing to form Government with Labor if the Liberal party won't come to the table on this matter?

We haven't ruled anything out. We've had eight years of good partnership with the Liberal party, but we have not ruled out forming government, and we are happy to negotiate with all those parties. That will be up to the leadership of the party to determine what that outcome is. All I will say is Mark McGowan has said categorically he would not form government with the National party, but we have not ruled that out ourselves. We are a balance of power party, and we seek to use the balance of power judiciously, for the best outcome for regional WA. 

Shane Van Styn appears in photos of your recent announcement. Was he there in his capacity as Mayor, or as a Nationals member?

In his capacity as Mayor of City of Greater Geraldton. He is no longer on the executive of the Nationals. He is the Mayor, and he was invited by me as the Mayor of Geraldton, because this is a very important announcement for the people of Geraldton. 


Media Statement from Paul Brown: 

The Nationals WA commit $115 million to Geraldton Regional Hospital

October 28, 2016

The Nationals WA will commit $115 million of Royalties for Regions funding to the expansion and re-development of the Geraldton Regional Hospital if elected at the March 2017 State election.

The Nationals WA Candidate for Geraldton Paul Brown MP said the funding would facilitate the immediate expansion of ward space for additional beds, reconfiguration of the clinical work space, modernised surgical theatres, an expanded Emergency Department and improved car parking and access points, to cope with the increasing demand in Geraldton and across the Mid West.

“Upgrading the Geraldton Regional Hospital has been a long-held priority for the Geraldton community and surrounding Mid West Region which is serviced by the hospital,” Mr Brown said. “The community has spoken and The Nationals WA have listened.

“Only The Nationals WA, as creators and custodians of Royalties for Regions, can be trusted to deliver this important project.”

Mr Brown was joined by Leader Hon Brendon Grylls MLA for the announcement in Geraldton today ahead of The Nationals WA 2016 State Conference.

Mr Grylls said the announcement was just another example of The Nationals’ strong commitment to improving healthcare in regional WA.

“The Nationals WA believe all West Australians, no matter where they live, should have access to quality healthcare,” Mr Grylls said.

“This is why our team has worked hard to deliver vital upgrades to regional hospitals in Kalgoorlie, Albany, Busselton, Karratha, Esperance and Carnarvon thanks to Royalties for Regions.

“There are also additional upgrades earmarked for Manjimup, Northam, Collie, Merredin, Narrogin and Katanning through the half billion dollar Royalties for Regions-funded Southern Inland Health Initiative.

“These investments are transforming health in regional WA and improving liveability of communities for residents.”

Mr Brown called on the Federal Government to match The Nationals WA’s funding commitment for the full redevelopment.

“It’s time for the Federal Government to return some of the $4.7 billion of GST it has taken this year alone, to ensure this vital upgrade and expansion can be delivered,” Mr Brown said. 

Why a lack of sleep makes us depressed … and what we can do about it

Why a lack of sleep makes us depressed ... and what we can do about it

Alice M. Gregory, Goldsmiths, University of London

Historically, insomnia has been thought of as secondary to other disorders such as depression. The idea was that you became depressed – and that your sleep got messed up as a consequence. This might involve difficulty falling asleep, excessive time awake at night or waking up earlier than hoped.

This may make sense to those who have experienced depression and found that thoughts of distressing events such as of a deceased loved one, or previous failures, keep them awake at night. The possibility that depression leads to insomnia is also consistent with research in which I have been involved – where we found that adults with insomnia were more likely than others to have experienced anxiety and depression earlier in life.

But could things really be the other way around? Could poor sleep be making you depressed? Over the past decade or so it has become increasingly clear that disturbed sleep often comes before an episode of depression, not afterwards, helping to do away with the notion that sleep problems are secondary to other disorders.

This is not too hard to relate to either – just think about how you feel after you have slept poorly. Perhaps you feel tearful or snap at those around you. The literature seems to back up the idea that our ability to regulate our emotions is reduced after a bad night’s sleep. Insomnia has also been shown to predict depression defined according to diagnostic criteria.

So why does poor sleep lead to depression? Lots of different mechanisms have been proposed. To give just a few examples, let’s start by thinking about our behaviour. I, for one, am more likely to cancel an evening out with friends or an exercise class after a poor night’s sleep. This could be part of the problem, as such events are exactly those that may help to keep depressive symptoms at bay.

If we think about what happens to the brain when we miss sleep, there are clues as to why sleep and depression are linked. One study on this topic focused on an area of the brain called the amygdala. This is an almond-shaped structure located deep in the brain that is believed to play an important role in our emotions and anxiety levels.

It was found that participants who had been sleep deprived for approximately 35 hours showed a greater amygdala response when presented with emotionally negative pictures when compared to those who had not been sleep deprived. Interestingly, links with parts of the brain that regulate the amygdala seemed weaker, too – meaning that the participants were perhaps less able to control their emotions. Such findings could help to explain how poor sleep may actually cause difficulties such as depression.

Inherited insomnia

Over the years, my own work has taken a behavioural genetic perspective in an attempt to understand the links between poor sleep and depression. From my twin research and work led by others it seems that poor sleep and insomnia symptoms could be, to some extent, part of the same genetic cluster – meaning that if we inherit genes which make us susceptible to insomnia, we may also be vulnerable to depression.

Lonely hours. Shutterstock

When trying to explain the link between sleep and depression, I’m also intrigued by recent work on the immune system and depression. Studies have found that those suffering from, or at risk of, depression may show high levels of inflammation in their bodies. Their immune systems appear to be in hyper-drive as if they’re fighting infection or healing from injury. When we disturb or restrict sleep we may also experience inflammation, so perhaps inflammation could also help to explain the link between sleep and depression.

So what can we do about it? It has been proposed for some time now that by improving sleep we can perhaps prevent or treat depression. Recently, data have started to emerge from studies suggesting that this may indeed be the case. For example, researchers at the University of Oxford in collaboration with the psychological therapy provider Self Help Manchester evaluated whether an online treatment for insomnia reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. They advised people with these difficulties to take steps such as keeping a consistent wake time, getting out of bed when they can’t sleep, and challenging beliefs that a bad night’s sleep is incapacitating.

They found that both anxiety and depression symptoms were reduced after insomnia treatment. Other groups are currently looking at whether by improving our sleep we can reduce other types of psychiatric difficulties, too. But even before this work is complete, the take-home message from research to date is clear: we need to begin to prioritise our sleep.

Alice M. Gregory, Professor of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


The Conversation

UK Government admits cannabis has a medicinal effect

Christopher Hootern for The Independent:

The government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has found that Cannabidiol (CBD) has a “restoring, correcting or modifying” effect on “physiological functions” when administered to humans, in a potential milestone in the campaign.

Click here to read more.  

IMG_1610.JPG

Babies in Mid West towns have been given unsafe tap water and no-one realised it until recently

Great, albeit concerning, story from Sebastian Neuweiler for the ABC:

In the mid 1990s the Health Department provided the Water Corporation with exemptions to nitrate guidelines for 11 towns, on the proviso bottled water be delivered to the communities and supplied to bottle fed infants under three months of age.
The water is supposed to be distributed through local nursing posts and health centres, but it has been revealed not all staff at those organisations are aware of the requirement.

Click here to read story


A local Labor politician has blamed the state Liberal National government for the debacle


The state government has already been under fire this month over the terrible water quality in many Mid West locations

Boxing packs a punch against Parkinson’s

A group of Parkinson’s disease sufferers are using boxing to help their motor skills.

During a trip to the Mid-West last week, Sport and Recreation Minister Mia Davies visited the Geraldton Police and Community Youth Centre and observed the Fighting Back program.

Fighting Back is a twice weekly boxing program for people with Parkinson’s. The 15-member group is aged between 55 and 85.

Boxing works by moving your body in all planes of motion while continuously changing the routine as you progress through the workout.  For the participants, the classes have lessened their symptoms and are helping them to lead a healthier and happier life.

“I’d like to congratulate both the PCYC and this special group who are working to improve lives through boxing classes,” Ms Davies said.

“We know sport and recreation has the wonderful ability to help people of all ages and all abilities, under all sorts of circumstances.

“I met one particular participant who only six weeks ago couldn’t walk backwards without falling over, but after participating in the program can now walk backwards while sparring and stay on their feet.”

The non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness routine is improving the ability of people with Parkinson’s to live independent lives across the world, and the Minister said she was pleased to see it now offered in Geraldton.

Through the educational program LEAP, a group of multicultural teenagers act as the group’s sparring partners.

“These teens represent the real meaning of ‘true sports’ by volunteering to help older people improve their physical and mental wellbeing,” Ms Davies said.

My husband nearly died - Letter to the Editor

image.jpg

My husband got extremely ill on the morning of 17th of August at 2am. He started vomiting initially, I thought he had gastro so didn't panic. By lunchtime I was concerned as he wasn't improving.

I got a doctor appointment but on the way to Dr at 3.50 he started to go down hill fast, so I changed direction and took him to Geraldton regional. He was rushed into resuscitation unit and RFDS to Perth where he spent 13 days in ICU, and was placed in an induced coma. His kidneys and body were starting to shut down.

A few days later we were advised he had salmonella poisoning. As no other family members were sick we believe he may have eaten some takeaway or fast food on Tuesday 16th August.

The only reason I am writing this post is the Health department in Midwest are not investigating as they believe it was an isolated case.

If you or any family members had similar symptoms I urge you to go to the doctor to be checked out, you may still have salmonella in your system. My husband is still on dialysis and is in hospital in Perth quite ill.

This was not a simple illness for him as he almost died from this. If anyone has this it can remain in their system for a substantial amount of time.

My husband was lucky I changed direction and headed to the hospital otherwise we would not be having a fathers day. Please, I just want others that may have been ill to see their doctor and get tested.


Anon

Chiropractic Clinic not a pain in the neck

All this week Geraldton community members have been able to take advantage of visiting Chiropractic students from Murdoch University’s School of Health Professions.

The final year students are offering free chiropractic consultations in a supervised student teaching clinic at the WA Centre for Rural Health.

Don’t worry if you missed out, as they will be returning to the Midwest.

Next week they will be based in Mount Magnet from 27th June to 1st July. They will then back in Geraldton from 4th to 8th July. With another Mount Magnet visit from 29th August until 2nd September.

Geraldton appointments can be pre-booked by contacting Christopher Hodgetts on telephone 0402 422 156.

Mount Magnet appointments can be pre-booked by contacting Lyndon Woods on 0429 209 255.

Letter to Editor: Dealing with Mental Health system

April 20

I have in the past year been to a psychiatrist twice in Perth as I have bipolar and sciziod personality disorder. The first time the Perth psychiatrist compiled a report back to my Dr here in Geraldton recommending that I see a psychiatrist on a regular basis at mental health.

My Dr referred myself to mental health, I was seen by a triage nurse who refused myself based on the fact that I was not suicidal or threatening others. 6weeks ago I was sent to Perth by my workplace for another assessment by the same psychiatrist and the report came back recommending that I see a regular psychiatrist at mental health.

Once again my Dr referred myself to mental health and 2 weeks ago I was contacted by a lady at mental health who made an appointment to see myself at home. The time was made for wednesday 10.00am. I waited until 10.45am and then rang mental health who got her to ring me.

She explained she forgot and had gone shopping instead and commented that she didnt need to see me now as I seemed ok. She told me that the mental health psychiatrist would make an appointment for me soon.

Today I contacted mental health as it has been a month since the referral and asked when I would be assessed or seen. I was told that there was no referral and to go back to my Dr and request another referral.

At this I got angry and explained that this whole process was frustrating and asked why I was the one why had to try to arrange so called professional when I had the mental health issue? I was told to see my Dr.

As you can imagine I am extreemly frustrated at the lack of communication, lack of response and confusion caused by mental health staff. I feel truly sorry for those clients who are less able than myself to address this type of disfunctional so called service.

- Matt. 

Trying to get help in the system

A woman reached out to EG a few weeks ago, at her wits end and demanding a return phone call. I rang back as quickly as I could. For privacy reasons we'll call her Jane. (That's not her real name, but Jane is such a wonderful name I like to use it whenever I can.) 

I wondered what I had done to upset her. Turns out she wasn't upset about anything to do with Everything Geraldton. Moreover, she didn't live anywhere near Geraldton. She lives in Rockingham. That would be Mark McGowan's electorate if I'm not mistaken. 

She reached out to EG, as well as a number of other media outlets, in a desperate attempt to have her story told. She told me the other outlets had basically said "we don't like to deal with these sorts of things" and I guess I can understand why. But I decided to listen to Jane for some time as she related her troubles. 

Here it is in a nutshell. 

Jane has seven kids. She's come out of a violent relationship. She had a VRO for her and her children's protection, but as she put it, "I may as well wipe my arse with the VRO." She says her ex breached it at least 20 times. 

Her ex husband committed a terrible crime recently and is about to go to jail. Jane says he got her onto meth a decade ago, and she says she's been off it for a bit over 100 days. Jane is also medicated for bipolar.

Oh yes. Seven kids, who have been brought up in a violent home, and are about to see their father locked away for a long time. 

Most men I know head to the doctor for that special procedure after kid number three, because they know the limits of what they can cope with. But Jane has seven, ranging from 14 to 1.

Jane copes. 

But barely. 

And she's been trying to get some help. 

Admittedly, she's already helped out by the government/taxpayer. She doesn't work, and receives the usual benefits a single mother receives. 

But Jane has been trying to get some assistance with caring for the kids from agencies like DCP. 

But because Jane copes she doesn't quite qualify. 

You see, Jane was told the only way she could get some extra assistance was if her kids were in actual danger. 

Jane had explained she was suicidal and barely coping at times. But it seems "barely coping" translates into "you're coping so you're not our problem." 

Someone kindly advised Jane that all she needed to do was lie to DCP and tell them she had neglected her youngest child. Jane told them the lie they needed to hear, and was then able to get day care for the children. 

It seems that if you're on the edge of coping, and can feel yourself slipping, there's not a lot of help available until you've actually slipped. 

Jane doesn't want her kids to go into foster homes. But she tells me she doesn't feel like she's coping much of the time. She says she's trying to get some sort of in home care or assistance to help keep her from the edge, but because she isn't bad enough of a parent, she's struggling to get the assistance. In her words: "I'm not a bad enough mum for DCP to do anything, but don't feel like I can keep treading water for much longer."

But having recently watched Jane try and navigate the numerous organisations that are ostensibly there to help, I can see why she's frustrated.

Here's another example of the difficulty faced by Jane in looking for assistance.

Jane's nine year old daughter has been more difficult than usual lately. Perhaps that's an understatement. She actually tried to run onto the road in front of a car. The daughter confessed to a psych worker she wants to kill herself, and explained how she would carry it out. She also explained how she would hurt her siblings. Jane tells me that this daughter has a history of similar behaviour. After the recent episode of the nine year old running out the front of the home and heading for the road, only stopped by a friend who happened to be arriving who tackled the girl to the ground, Jane sought help. 

As per her instructions from the support agencies, she called the Police. They said in a nutshell "What do you expect us to do? Call agency X or go to the emergency department of the hospital." Agency X also said "go to the hospital." The hospital admitted the daughter, but wanted her gone the next day with no other advice. After arguing and fighting Jane was able to take the daughter to another hospital in Perth. But they didn't want her either, because she wasn't displaying any problematic behaviour at that time. So home Jane went. But she didn't make it all the way home. Nine year old started threatening to open the car door and jump out on the freeway. So off to the nearest hospital, Fiona Stanley. And guess what. They don't want the daughter there any more either. Fair enough. They've got sick people to look after. So where do you take a suicidal nine year old who's threatening to hurt her siblings and herself? DCP will know. 

Nope. DCP said, and I quote because I heard the conversation, "That's up to you to talk to the hospital about."

"But I can't take my daughter home because it's unsafe, and the hospital says I can't leave her there. What do I do?" Jane asks. 

"That's up to you to talk to the hospital about," DCP says again. 

I'm sure you're a better parent than Jane. I'm sure you'd never make the life choices that would lead a person to this point. Good for you. 

But the fact of the matter is there are plenty of people like Jane living in our communities, and they struggle to navigate the complicated network of government departments and agencies. And some of these people don't fit our definitions of who qualifies for assistance.

They feel like they're being handballed each time they pick up the phone and ask for help.

I've done as much independent investigation as I can, viewed correspondence and court records, but as you can imagine DCP aren't too keen on speaking with the media about specific cases. I'm sure there's more than one side to the story, and I'm sure the individuals at all the different agencies are doing their best. Is Jane just someone who has failed to take responsibility for her own actions and needs to blame the "system" to make herself feel better, or is she someone who doesn't quite fit the description of a person who needs help, and hasn't said the magic words yet to get it? Is her case symptomatic of the disconnected age we live in where we can't even reach out to our neighbours or family and ask for help, and instead depend on the tax payer to fund an agency to solve our problems?

I don't know. But I keep meeting people who can't find the help they say they need, and they seem to be trying their best.

Six-year-old boy died of natural causes at country hospital: coroner

Sebastian Neuweiler for the ABC:

 A communication breakdown contributed to the death of a six-year-old boy at a country hospital, the WA Coroner ruled, but added that the child ultimately died of "natural causes". 

Click here to read full story. 

This dog will help 6 year old Jamie by alerting his parents to seizures

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Hello, firstly we would like to introduce ourselves. We are Brent and Michelle REID.

We are fundraising on behalf of our 6 year old son, Jamie.

Jamie was born with a rare brain condition called Bilateral Frontal Polymicrogyria. The result of this is uncontrollable epilepsy (150-350 seizures a week), Autism, Global Development Delays and Intellectual Disabilities.

Jamie has been selected as a suitable candidate for an Autism/Seizure assistance dog. The dog will assist Jamie and the family by alerting us to seizures prior to them occurring. The dog will also assist Jamie personally with his Autism. The assistance dog is trained to disrupt autistic melt downs and ensure Jamies safety when out in public. The assistance dog is trained to be tethered to Jamie allowing him freedom to walk freely without the need to be placed in a trolley/stroller or strong hand grip. Jamie has a penchant to want to get out and run and without the knowledge of his own safety. The assistance dog will be with him at all times and when required will stop Jamie to ensure his safety. This is extremely important in situations where there is water, as Jamie has a fixation with playing with water.

The dog is also trained to be able to track Jamie and locate his should he get out and wander off.

The assistance dog will deliver peace of mind, comfort and safety for Jamie. The opportunity it will give Jamie will be outstanding as it will offer him a greater level of independence that a normal 6 year would enjoy. The assistance dog will open his world and like most special needs kids allow him to feel normal and like he fits.

As part of the process of placing the dog with Jamie, we have agreed to fundraise towards the dogs training. The training of each Smart Pup costs $25,000.00 and as a not for profit organisation they rely on fundraising to be able to provide an assistance dog to the candidate family.

This is where we are asking if you would be able to assist in any way possible to help us achieve this opportunity for Jamie.

 

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All donations made are charitable donations to Smart Pups. To let them know that your donation is in support of a particular Smart Pups family you can use ONE of the donation codes provided below when completing a direct Bank Deposit or PayPal transaction. Donations without a donation code will be allocated to the general Training Program to help Smart Pups cover the balance of the training costs for our families.

DONATION CODE OPTIONS:

a) FULL NAME CODE: Jamie Reid or
b) ALFA CODE: jmrd or c) NUMERIC CODE: 55209

To donate via direct deposit - Smart Pups Westpac | BSB: 034198 | ACC: 415185
To donate via PayPal - Click on the BIG RED Smart Pups Donate Button on the website at www.smartpups.org.au.

NB: The three donation code options are provided in an attempt to meet the different code restrictions set by each Banks IT system. A direct Bank Deposit does not attract any fees. If making a donation via PayPal you must manually type the child’s name in the ‘NOTES TO SELLER’ field at the time you make the transaction. Please be aware that, as there is no fee waiver in place for charitable donations, PayPal will charge Smart Pups an administration fee on each donation.

Check-ups closer to home

Child Health Nurse Kristy Ryan and her son Vagus Ryan.

Child Health Nurse Kristy Ryan and her son Vagus Ryan.

Most parents would know that when you first have a child, you are welcomed and encouraged to visit the Community Health Centre for regular check-ups on your baby’s health and development with the Child Health Nurse.  What you might not know is that these check-ups can continue throughout the child’s early years – until school entry, and can also be a great place to discuss your own wellbeing and development as a parent. 

Visits to the Child Health Nurse are free for all families and available by simply making a booking on 9956 1985.  If getting into the Community Health Centre in Shenton Street or Spalding is difficult for families, there is also the option of visiting the Child Health Nurse while they are onsite at the Child and Parent Centre – Rangeway, on Hovea Street in Rangeway.  There is a nurse onsite at the centre every Thursday during school terms, from 9am to 3.30pm. If you would like to attend your appointment there, simply advise staff when making your booking. Sometimes there are even appointments available for ‘drop-ins’ on the day.

The Child and Parent Centre - Rangeway is a Department of Education, State funded initiative operated by the Geraldton Regional Community Education Centre.  The centre offers a huge range of free activities, programs and services for children aged 0 to 8 years and their families, on top of the Child Health Nurse visits. You can visit them anytime during the week on Hovea Street in Rangeway, between 8am and 5pm. More information can be found at www.edcentre.wa.edu.au/events or by calling 9921 6814 or emailing cpc@edcentre.wa.edu.au

How Stripping Down To Your Underwear Could Save Your Life

If you’re anything like me, the thought of stripping down to your underwear in front of complete strangers is utterly terrifying. However, the thought of going under the knife to have a skin cancer removed proved to be scarier still, so I put on my big girl pants and booked myself in to Skin – A Universal Approach for my first ever Skin Cancer check.

Going into the clinic, I had no idea of what to expect. How long does a skin cancer check take? What exactly would they be looking for? Will I need to have suspicious spots chopped out of me right then and there?

Thankfully, the experienced staff were more than happy to answer any of my questions and they very quickly put my mind at ease (The process takes about 30 minutes, they were looking for any unusual spots, and no, I most likely would not need to have anything chopped out of me right then and there).

The appointment starts with a thorough check of your hair and face. Even with my incredibly long, unruly hair, the team took no chances and went through it to be sure there were no hidden lesions on my scalp.

Once that’s done, it’s time to disrobe for the most awkward (and possibly most useful) part of the experience: total body mapping. This is where you strip down to your undies and the nurse takes around ten images of various parts of your body with a machine known as the MoleMax.

The importance of these particular photos really shines when you have your next check-up, as they allow for quick identification of any changes or additions to your skin that you may miss.

After the photography is complete, the team moves on to the in-depth all-over skin check. Using a hand held device called a dermatoscope, the team look over every part of your body and investigate any moles they see. If there are any moles that look suspicious, they will take a photograph for closer inspection.

While this is happening, you’ll be asked a few questions about skin cancer risk factors and relevant medical history. It was during this time that I learned I have a higher chance of developing a melanoma in my lifetime, as there is a history of skin cancer in my family.

Statistically speaking, melanoma is the fourth most diagnosed cancer in Australia. The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with a melanoma is 99%, but only if the cancer is detected early. If left unchecked, the five-year survival rate drops dramatically to only 15% (source).

It is recommended that you have a skin cancer screening once per year, or more frequently if you are at high risk.

Thankfully, my story has a happy ending and I have the all-clear for the moment. A few minutes of awkwardness in my undergarments is most definitely worth the peace of mind knowing that I am skin cancer free.

To book a Skin Cancer check appointment of your own, give Skin – A Universal Approach a call on (08) 9965 4737

Mother asking for help after son attacked by dog in Mt Tarcoola

A local mother has reached out to EG asking for help from the community after her son was bitten this morning by a dog. 

If you know anything or can assist, please email Everything Geraldton geraldton@justeverything.com.au and we will pass your info along. 

"IMPORTANT!!!! If anyone was in the Tarcoola area near the park and the shops around 7am this morning and saw a lady in her late 50's early 60's with brownish red short hair walking 2 dogs one white and one golden/ginger, I would LOVE TO KNOW. One of her dogs bit my 19 month old son on the face while he was getting on the slide at A CHILDREN'S PLAYGROUND!!!! She didn't even say sorry to my husband, she said "dogs will be in the naughty corner" and rushed off. My husband obviously caring for our son and running home with him to get to the hospital, didn't get a chance to get any information from the lady. So please if anyone knows/saw her could you please let me know. A dog biting any child is a serious problem, and I do not want this to happen to any other children!!!!"

10am- Update from the mum: "Thank you so much to everyone for the comments and Shares. We think we have found her. Just waiting on the Rangers to call me back to make a report now. Thanks again. And our little man is doing good. Just some butterfly stitches and some antibiotics, but it will leave 2 scars on his face. I just don't want this to happen to any other children, or any human for that matter."

1:00pm update: 

The owner of the dog from this morning's incident has expressed their regret over what happened:

"As the dog owner involved in the incident this morning I would like to express my deepest regret that such a thing happened. Although I did express my most fulsome apologies at the time I understand that this may not have been recalled. I have taken every measure I can at this point, to address the situation and will take all measures to ensure that this cannot happen again. The event was extremely unexpected, however I will not ever again put the dog or another person in any situation where there could be the slightest risk from the dog. The incident caused me great distress afterwards and I would have liked to speak with the mother and father. However I respect their feelings and again offer my most heartfelt regret to all concerned."

Medical Cannabis will finally be grown in Australia

It's finally legal to grow medicinally with new licences, but you still can't actually use it. 

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration are considering downgrading it to a "controlled substance", making it similar to morphine.

Huff Po on the breaking news from the Australian Senate:

Australia has passed a medical marijuana bill to allow the cultivation of the drug, but the Greens say medical cannabis remains an illegal substance.
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Wednesday afternoon that amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act -- passed through the House of Representatives on Tuesday -- had also successfully passed through the Senate.
The bill would allow access to medicinal cannabis products for people suffering from serious illness, by legislating the growing of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Products such as cannabis oil are used in the treatment of nausea during chemotherapy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Click here to read more. 

Pages Beach given all clear

Pages Beach North back in action

The City of Greater Geraldton wishes to advise the community that further samples have been taken at Pages Beach North to assess the water quality.

Results have now been received and show there is no current health hazard present and the health warning has now been lifted.

For further information please phone 9956 6600.