Victoria's alcohol and drug treatment services have failed to keep pace with the growing substance abuse epidemic after a decade of neglect, an Auditor General's report revealed on March 2. The report reviewed the Department of Health's $136 million alcohol and drug prevention efforts. It found the system is flawed and underfunded after the former state government failed to act on 31 internal reviews during its 10 years in office.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced on March 1 that the government would push ahead with the unpopular plan to build Australia’s largest desalination plant in Wonthaggi. This is despite pre-election promises that he would re-examine the contract with Aquasure, the private consortium commissioned to build and operate the plant, which was approved under Labor premier John Brumby in 2007. According to the Age on March 1, the eventual price tag is "$24 billion that is expected to double household water bills over the next five years".
Britain: Goldman Sachs gives huge bonuses “Bankers were accused of ‘sticking two fingers up to austerity Britain’,” the British Guardian reported on January 19, “after it was revealed that [Wall Street bank] Goldman Sachs had handed its staff a £10bn payday as new figures showed unemployment among Britain's young people had hit its highest level since modern records began”. The article said data from the Office for National Statistics showed that one in five people under 25 were out of work by the end of November last year — a total of 951,000 people.
Carrying signs such as "Coal seam gas stinks", "Gas mining under Sydney Park - no fracking way!", and "Gutless government giving in to gas", over 400 local residents and supporters rallied on December 19 at Sydney Park to protest the NSW government's secretive approval for exploratory drilling for coal seam gas (CSG) mining in the inner-western suburb of St Peters.
Four thousand nurses and midwives met at Sydney Olympic Park on November 24 to protest against the state government's refusal to fund safe nurse-to patient-ratios. It was the first state-wide nurses’ strike since 2001 and 170 hospitals were affected. The action was supported by 180 branches of the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA). The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) said the strike must be called off, but the nurses were defiant.
Greece’s government intends to bump up sales taxes for the third time this year and slash spending on health care. The new measures were included in the 2011 budget it submitted to parliament on November 18. Prime Minister George Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government has already raised the sales tax twice this year. Papandreou had pledged not to introduce any measures that would cause more hardship for ordinary Greek citizens — such as new taxes.
For the second week in a row, nurses held lunchtime rallies outside their hospitals in support of the NSW Nurses Association campaign for a mandated minimum nurse to patient ratio of 1:4 in public hospitals. This ratio has been mandated in Victoria for 10 years but NSW lags behind. Lower ratios in NSW have meant poorer care for patients and have also placed nurses in danger.
The Venezuelan government said its “Smile Mission” social program has provided more than 96,000 adults with free dental care, including 34,600 with dentures, since its creation in 2006, Venezuelanalysis.com said on October 29. Health minister Eugenia Sader said the dentures provided by the mission are primarily for people from the poorest sectors. “The Smile Mission helps recover the self-esteem of our patients and of the Venezuelan people”, Sader said. “This is quality free dental attention that the revolutionary government offers to our people in order to guarantee health to them.”
An outbreak of cholera has been documented in the area surrounding the lower Artibonite region of Haiti. There had been more than 2000 cases of acute watery diarrhea and 160 deaths reported by October 22. Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness spread by drinking water containing the organism Vibrio cholera. Symptoms typically develop between one and five days after drinking water contaminated by the human feces of persons infected with the cholera bacteria.
A report by the government of Cuba, posted to the United Nations Relief Web website, said representatives of the Union of South American nations (Unasur — which unites all South American countries), met via teleconference on October 25 and agreed to commence emergency medical shipments to the areas of Haiti affected by the cholera epidemic, CanadaHaitiAction reported. Ten countries took part in the conference: Argentina; Chile; Colombia; Peru, Venezuela; Bolivia; Uruguay; Paraguay; Brazil and Ecuador.