The fault lies with the system, not one person

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HOTEL QUARANTINE FALLOUT

The fault lies with the system, not one person
The resignation of health minister Jenny Mikakos will not bring a single victim of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak back to life, nor will it restore a single job lost during the subsequent lockdown. Research repeatedly shows adverse events in healthcare are rarely solely due to errors made by an individual, or individuals. You will nearly always find there are faults in the system that prevent the prompt recognition and rectification of these errors. The events will continue until the underlying problems are tackled.

One such problem, as infectious disease expert Professor Lindsay Grayson has pointed out, is the systematic de-medicalisation of the DHHS. Administrators discourage the involvement of medical practitioners in decision making, regarding it as involving an inherent conflict of interest. It is not surprising that when issues like the management of hotel quarantine require substantial medical input, problems in command, communication and co-operation arise, with tragic consequences.

This issue is not confined to the DHHS, nor to Victoria. It is vital that widespread hostility between career administrators and medical practitioners be addressed at federal level before the next predicted wave of the pandemic hits us in the autumn.
Mike Sanderson, Drouin

We knew the drill …
When I worked in a high-rise office, every two years or so we would have a fire drill. Getting us to know what to do was not the main reason. It was knowing who would be in charge and for them to practise their responsibilities.

Australia conducted its last pandemic drill 12 years ago. With our ever-changing government and public service structures these types of exercises are more important and need to be run more regularly. Thus, it is no surprise that failures such as the Ruby Princess, private aged care homes and Victorian quarantine arrangement should occur.

While I agree that the health minister should resign for the failures of her department, the ultimate responsibility should not be hers and it should not be a career-ending event.

There are many other ministers, both state and federal, who avoid responsibility not only for their department’s failures but for their own actions.
Kyle Matheson, Mont Albert

A little bit of context would help
Can we think about the context please: 36 hours to set up a program in the middle of a crisis that we have never experienced before. Was the best decision made? No. Did it work for the most part? Yes. Can it be improved? Sure.

So now that we’ve put a head on the pike, could we all focus on how to make the pandemic response more robust so that we can get Aussies home, students back in and immigration moving. Otherwise, we will be searching for another head in six years to explain why we didn’t get the economy back on track sooner.
Jane Wright, Hampton

A woman of deep conviction and integrity
While many people can understand the political imperatives that led to to the resignation of Jenny Mikakos – the ultimate political price paid for a chronically sick health system crying out for radical changes – for those who know her, including myself, for more than 30 years, it is fair and indeed imperative to acknowledge her immense and often unique contribution to the best interests of Victoria, her party the ALP and its left wing, the wider labour movement and ethnic minorities.

Politics, progressive politics consumed, all her life with deep conviction and integrity to social justice, multiculturalism, her beloved Greek community, endless hard work and for growing wiser.

Thank you, Jenny, for all the good you have done, and much more you can do in the fields of your new endeavours.
George Zangalis, Hawthorn East

THE FORUM

A failure to prepare
In her letter to The Age (‘‘A serious lack of training’’, 25/9), Ruth Mitchell correctly identified the underlying cause of mistakes made during the current pandemic as ‘‘lack of preparedness’’.

For years, scientists have warned governments, including our own, that they should be prepared for the possibility of a pandemic, not if, but when one would arise, the likelihood being so strong. An Australia-wide system of management and control of a pandemic should have been in place years ago, established by the federal health minister in co-operation with the state health ministers.

The fractured response to the pandemic and subsequent chaos we have endured is the consequence of what is patently a federal responsibility having been left to the states.

It is natural that the Australian public wants answers and is seeking accountability, but the mindless searching for someone to blame is both pointless and destructive.

We need strong leadership from the federal government to take control and, with the states, determine the flaws in the system and begin the vital work of establishing a first-class pandemic control system.
Barbara Steele, Mount Eliza

The lockdown effect
I dread a return from lockdown. The silence has been bliss: much less traffic, no stupid parties, and a healthy limitation on the world of business. A return from lockdown will mean a return to the dysfunctionality of ‘‘normal’’ life.

The way we have practised ‘‘normal life’’ to this point is increasingly destructive, with unrestrained business imperatives of accelerating growth destroying our one lovely planet.

We are still afloat on our ship of fools, but we have not noticed the ship’s name, nor its course towards the fatal iceberg. A return to normality and ‘‘full steam ahead’’ resumes our fatal journey.

Go, COVID lockdown, which, if maintained for long enough, will force much-needed changes in the ways in which we live.
David Champion, St Andrews Beach

Reality check should be …
Thank you, Avril Moore, for writing about death being an intrinsic part of every life (‘‘When did we begin to regard dying as such a failure?’’, Saturday Reflection, The Age, 26/9).

She is absolutely correct in her last paragraph: ‘‘I do hope, though, that when I am buried that just as author Isabel Allende wrote, the ‘universe stops to take a breath’ but life will go on and it sure as hell won’t be a ‘national tragedy’.’’

Thank you for your reality check. It is appreciated.
Jill Loorham, Castlemaine

… mandatory reading
Avril Moore’s article should be mandatory reading for all politicians from both sides, as well as for all the ‘‘safety-minded’’ health bureaucrats around the country.
This mantra of trying to save every last person from dying at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the population requires the most perverse logic and reasoning possible.

Our lives and wellbeing are defined by our humanity, our interaction with family, friends and colleagues. Our lives and wellbeing are defined by our life experiences, be they interacting with nature, participating in or following sport, or experiencing the arts and entertainment.

Our lives and wellbeing are not defined by our final breath.

Yet our politicians and bureaucrats continue to use this falsehood of keeping us safe from dying to strip away all our humanity and expect us to thank them for it. In what parallel universe would you restrict families from visiting elderly loved ones who are already in palliative care to prevent infection from a virus?

Wake up, everyone, and reflect on what is really important for your lives. Take back control of your lives from these clueless leaders, most of whom do not even have the honesty to be accountable for their actions.
Martin Benders, Wheelers Hill

It stops with Andrews
Daniel Andrews formed the Crisis Council of Cabinet as the core decision-making forum for the Victorian government on all matters related to the coronavirus emergency, including implementing the outcomes of the national cabinet.

He chairs the CCC and is ultimately responsible for our state’s response to this emergency. For him to lay the blame at the feet of his health minister is an abrogation of his responsibility and the poorest display of leadership seen for many many years.

And if this is an example of his leadership style, he does not deserve to be the head of our state. He should do the honourable thing and resign immediately because Victoria deserves better.
Darren Stait, Carnegie

Well-founded cynicism
I am certain that Dr Alan Finkel as a scientist would not be comfortable with the term ‘‘stretch hypothesis’’ but he’s more than happy to adopt the dissembled language of the political class and promote the ‘‘stretch goals’’ of the Coalition’s Low Emissions Technology Statement (‘‘Economy v climate a false dichotomy’’, Talking Point, The Age, 26/9).

A ‘‘stretch goal’’ is an aspirational but non-accountable goal, a whitewashing equivocation to mask that it will most likely not be achieved, but it sounds much better than the underperforming goal that is more likely and more favoured for unpopular reasons.

Given the Coalition’s track record of intransigent antipathy towards climate science, there is well-founded cynicism that the stretch goals of the Low Emissions Technology Statement are masking the politically favoured goal of prioritising fossil fuels.
Paul Miller, Box Hill South

A careful omission
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s promotion of Angus Taylor’s ‘‘clean technologies’’ statement carefully omits any mention of the dangerous word ‘‘gas’’, and manages thereby to look scrupulously clean and attractive.

But extensive and indefinite usage of gas remains a central focus of Taylor’s energy policy. And while gas looks attractive – half as much carbon emission as coal per unit of energy – its accompanying methane levels make it much worse even than coal as a contributor to climate change.

The gassy elephant in the room continues to stink, no matter how Finkel and Taylor try to keep it hidden under wraps.
Peter Deerson, Mornington

A path to follow
Given the integrity shown by Jenny Mikakos in resigning from her health portfolio after the quarantine debacle in Victoria, I wonder if we might expect similar levels of integrity to be shown by the Federal Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, and others responsible for the ‘‘needless deaths of hundreds of elderly Australians’’. Too much to expect of our federal government? Dare I mention the Ruby Princess?
Rod Slater, Flinders

It looks like a Ponzi scheme
Interesting article by Shane Wright (‘‘‘We’re in deep strife’: Fertility wipeout to derail recovery’’, Insight, The Age, 26/9). It appears our declining population growth is an unfolding disaster. As stated, with no irony, unless Australia’s population figures rebound to pre-pandemic levels, our entire economic existence is under threat.

On the evidence given, it confirms suspicion that our economic model is just a giant Ponzi scheme. Without continual ‘‘growth’’, economic collapse is almost certain. Extrapolate that worldwide and we’ll have a very short history.

Put simply, most of today’s challenges can be linked directly or indirectly to overpopulation but, for the corporate, political and religious ‘‘powers’’, any serious discussion about that is antisocial and tantamount to treason.

I’m waiting in hope of a discussion on possible end games.
Jeff Wallace, Drouin

This is how to do it
I was astonished to read in Saturday’s Age about the very lax approach to releasing COVID-19 cases from self-isolation in Victoria. (‘‘Doctors warn on isolation release issues’’, 26/9.)

My sister-in-law returned from France, early in the pandemic, to her home in Sydney and went into self-isolation.

Soon after her return she fell ill, was tested for COVID-19, and began a second stretch of self-isolation. The test was positive and she was instructed to remain in self-isolation until she felt well again, when she could be retested.

To end her self-isolation she needed two successive negative tests. Her first test was negative but the next was positive. Two further tests producing negative results were required before her self-isolation ended.

All told my sister-in-law was in self-isolation for more than a month. During this time she was closely monitored by NSW public health personnel. What a contrast to the situation described in Saturday’s article.

It certainly seems that Victoria’s management of the pandemic has been inferior to that of NSW in more than one respect.
Julia Blunden, Hawthorn

A voice to our feelings
Thank you, Wendy Squires (Saturday Reflection, 26/9), so much for expressing well what many of us living alone have experienced but felt too awkward, uneasy and over-complaining to voice.

No wonder dog ownership is on the rise – so much love and so many cuddles, and you can share in their unbridled joy of life.
Georgina Simmons, Mornington

A great new game
The COVID-19 restrictions have made us think up new ways to pass the time, and thanks to Australia Post there is a brand new game in town.

Most readers would be familiar with the children’s game ‘‘pass the parcel’’; well, there is a new version called ‘‘post the parcel’’.

Australia Post provides tracking on all parcels if lodged at a post office. Just think of the fun for the whole family with variations of the game – ‘‘Where will the parcel be next’’, ‘‘How many mail centres will the parcel be lodged at’’, and so on.

So far, our best effort has been a parcel from Geelong to Kilsyth, via three mail centres in Sydney, one in Geelong and two in Melbourne at a total of 23 days.

It’s a fun game for all the family, and better still it improves your knowledge of Australian geography.
Mike Trickett, Geelong West

AND ANOTHER THING

Contact tracing
Michael O’Brien has made his point – ad nauseam – about Victorian quarantine failures. Can he now address the federal government’s contact tracing app failures?
Joan Logan, South Melbourne

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The energy road map
Could Scott Morrison’s energy road map show where the hitching posts and water troughs are. My horse needs a regular drink.
Hans Pieterse, Narre Warren North

It’s too complicated if it needs a road map.
Malcolm Cameron, Camberwell

Ministerial responsibility
A government minister taking responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings of their department, now that’s an idea worth pursuing.
Michael Brinkman, Ventnor

Jenny Mikakos has just shown Brad Hazzard, Richard Colbeck and Peter Dutton the meaning of ministerial responsibility.
Adrian Hyland, St Andrews

The Victorian health minister has resigned. The federal Aged Care Minister should note well and do likewise.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick

Hotel quarantine
Hotel quarantine = outsourced security times ubiquitous amnesia divided by collective responsibility. In an equation with so many unknowns, no wonder the Premier has a problem. Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

The most frustrating thing about this whole fiasco is that there was even a need to have security guards to ensure people who were told to isolate did as requested.
Andrew Cameron, West Launceston, Tas.

Politics
It seems that Daniel Andrews has one remaining thing going for him at the moment and that’s the quality of the state opposition.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Finally
Vale Susan Ryan. A wonderful and wise human being who wrested reason from centuries of irrational gender discrimination. She will be sadly missed.
Robyn Westwood, Heidelberg Heights

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