Friday, April 28, 2017

Puerto Rico & Ponce: Pre-Raphaelites!

So we spent a week in Puerto Rico before our Caribbean Cruise thinking it will be food and beach adventure and some Spanish historical sights. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the Ponce Museum of Art is a must see.



This Caribbean Island Museum has one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelites. Yes, Pre-Raphaelites.

 Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Roman Widow
 Gustav PopeDaughters of King Lear



Edward Burne-Jones's The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon



The Guardian.

We did not get to see The Flaming June as it was back home in London. 



Frederic Leighton, Flaming June, 1895.
Courtesy of Museo de Arte de Ponce, The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Also: Vanity Fair.



Jul 21, 2015 ... The Art Institute of Chicago has quite an interesting collection. What caught my eye the other afternoon was a Pre-Raphaelite, well one of three ...

Nov 28, 2015 ... Earlier in June we spent some time with our friends in Dorchester . Somehow the after dinner conversation turned to the Pre-Raphaelites and ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

NHS: The Last Sunset & The Last Cook.

 As the sun sets on our beloved NHS:
                                                           ©Am Ang Zhang 2012

Perhaps it is not that well known that the dismantling of our beloved NHS started long before the present government and the future does not bode well for those of us that likes to keep NHS in the public domain.

Child Psychiatric in-patient units across the country were closed some time after many adult hospitals were closed or down-sized.

To me, the government is too concern with short term results that they impose various changes across the board in Health Care & Education without regard to the long term consequences or costs.

After all, I have made good use of in-patient facilities to un-diagnose ADHD and that would in turn save children from unnecessary medication and the country from unjustified benefit claims.

Such units were also great training grounds for the future generation of psychiatrists and nurses. Instead, most rely on chemicals to deal with a range of childhood psychological problems.

Indeed it was a sad day when the unit closed.

From The Cockroach Catcher:

Chapter 48        The Last Cook



O
ne of the few things I learned working in some inpatient units was to be appreciative of the ancillary staff. What a cleaner might reveal to us was often more telling than a formal interview. It could well be that often parents were unguarded and more able to reveal things to someone like the cleaner or indeed the cook.
         I was fortunate enough to experience one of the last NHS cooks when I was Senior Registrar at an inpatient unit. The inpatient unit catered for a middle age group spanning the older children to the younger adolescents. It was one of a kind in the U.K. and indeed it was the first to start a national training course for Psychiatric nurses in inpatient care, a good three years before anywhere else.
         The unit was in the middle of town and was considered to be too far from the Hospital for catering purposes.  Instead a cook was employed to cater for the needs of the children and nursing staff.  We doctors were not supposed to eat there. But we did.  Mainly for lunch.
         If we arrived at mid-morning we used to get a nice cup of tea. But that was only since I started bringing in my own tea leaves. We also got served home-made scones and the like.
         All very homely.
         I had since wondered if our great success rate was more to do with having our own cook than all the other therapies and tit bits that we did.
         You never know as people do not really research these things.
        
         ……I often arrived late at lunch time after the children and nurses had eaten as morning clinics had a habit of running late. With less than ten minutes to spare, the cook would still manage to serve me a bit of some of the things she knew I preferred. Often she felt compelled to sit with me to tell me about her grandchildren or about what the government should really be doing to help the likes of her, a war widow bringing up two sons in this Naval town. I always admired the resilience shining through her stories.
         She also provided me with her down to earth views of what we should do with whichever patient that had come in. I listened. I took note.  You never know.
        
        
         Sheena was the mother of two girls we had to admit. They were both ‘soilers’ and they would never touch vegetables at home or anywhere.

         Sheena was petite, worn and a chain smoker.
         But she had two lovely looking girls.
         We knew from the start there were handling issues and most likely diet ones too.
         One of the other reasons for their admission was that by and large there were very few girl ‘soilers’.  
         It was always a good sign when a child flourished in an inpatient setting, and away from home some mothers were more capable of telling you more of what went on.  Some mothers found it easier to talk to one of the non-medical staff, perhaps the cook.
         Mothers got fed too on their visits. More often than not the children preferred their mother to go home than to stay and watch them. That was a different issue. With the money spent on cigarettes and drinks not much was left for food either for the children or the parents. I knew that if we checked for vitamin and other deficiencies we would find them, a problem that had taken Public Health a long time to wake up to. Increasing tax for cigarettes and drinks did not change people’s habit one little bit.
         With a simple routine the girls were clean in no time.   At least during the week as they all went home week-ends, when the unit was closed.
         We were at a loss as to what was going on.
         The girls would get worse over the week-end and soil. This went on for quite a while.
         Then one day the cook talked to me.
         “Sheena never stays Mondays,” she told me.
         I listened.
         “Have you noticed she is always in dark glasses on Mondays?”
         How stupid of me. Now and again I saw her at the door seeing the girls off and yes, she wore huge sunglasses.
         Sheena was not a movie star.
         I arranged to see Sheena.
         She said, “You knew.”
         I nodded.


         “But I cannot leave him. I have nowhere to go and I shall not get enough benefit money if I am divorced from him. He now goes to the day hospital. Fridays he gets drunk and beats me up. It is like a routine. I try not to get hurt and hide it from the girls. If I walk out, he will find me even if I have somewhere to go. I shall still get beaten up. Now at least I know when it will happen and I can live with that.”
         I suggested that I should speak to him but she looked terrified.
         She felt he might even kill her if I did and last time he threw a chair at a male nurse who tried to say something.
         She was probably right. We often had no idea what people and particularly women put up with. It would be too easy for us to bulldoze in.  We had to think twice before intervening unless we had something better to offer. His Schizophrenia diagnosis allowed for a higher level of benefit she would not otherwise get. Who would she meet up with next?  Another violent man most likely.
         Was it such a cop-out on my part?
         Maybe it was, but in a strange way the girls stopped soiling after that one meeting I had with mum. The case left me with some unease - unease not just about what I did or did not do but about keeping patients in the community. Three other lives were affected here and who knows, one day he might go too far.  That was before Maria Colwell. 
         The unit had long since been closed.
         The last cook in the NHS retired .

The Cockroach Catcher at: Amazon Kindle USAmazon Kindle UK ;Lulu.com
Apr 25, 2014 ... In my book The Cockroach Catcher I described how I was suddenly confronted with a piece of work by Mondrian. I have to confess it was not an ...
Oct 21, 2012 ... The supervisor, Frances Tustin, wore a head of thick pure white hair. Very short and of rather solid build, she used to wear only trousers, which ...
Aug 9, 2016 ... I no longer remember Amanda as a severe anorectic but rather a very talented artist who suffered serious abuse. Yet in a society which prides ...
Sep 3, 2014 ... Chicago: From Magritte to Amanda. Rene Magritte exhibition. Could the Cockroach Catcher have missed this exhibition? Art Institute of ...

Apr 11, 2016 ... Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. ©Am Ang Zhang 2005. South Africa reminds me of my Anorexia Nervosa patient.
Sep 26, 2016 ... Well, let the truth be told, Am Ang discovered Barbados long before the celebs. He is still very fond of it though he tends to visit when the celebs ...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring: How to save our NHS!

If we are not careful Private Insurance will creep into England without a single bit of control as it is singularly important to stop Insurers to reject those with pre-existing conditions or dump them once they have a chronic illness such as Type 1 Diabetes. 

Patients could have to start to pay charges to use basic NHS services such as GPs because the health service’s finances have become so dire, the leader of Britain’s doctors has warned. 
Dr Mark Porter, the head of the British Medical Association (BMA), said that whoever takes office after the general election will inevitably be tempted to bring in charges and may not be deterred by the unpopularity of such a seismic change to the health service.
....“You say it’s politically toxic. It’s not, really, is it? Look at dentistry and look at social care. They carry with them exactly the same offer to the public by which the NHS was set up; that we will remove from you – this society, us acting collectively – the terrible fear of bankrupting yourself by having an illness, by needing healthcare.
“And yet we allow people to be bankrupted by social care and we allow people to be deterred from seeking dental care because of charges,” Porter said.

Can we think of ways round this?

There is little doubt that a system based on insurance will need smart legislation to control the insurers. If the NHS is going to make use of wealthier individuals to use Health Insurance, then the same smart laws will need to be enacted for the regulation of Insurers. We should have learnt through the banking failures that in business, there is no such thing as self regulation.


Here are some things the law will do:
·         It will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to people simply because they have one or more pre-existing conditions.
·         It will also prohibit them from cancelling our coverage when we get sick just to avoid paying for our care.
·         It will prohibit insurers from charging women more than men for comparable coverage and will not allow them to charge older folks more than three times as much as younger folks.
·         It will require them to spend at least 80 percent of what we pay in premiums actually paying claims and improving care.
·         It will allow young adults—who comprise the largest segment of the uninsured—to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.

Summary of a popular post:


Spring is here!


 ©2014 Am Ang Zhang

"In fact, to save money, government can buy insurance 

for 

the mental patients and the chronically ill."

It must be very obvious that all the talk about medical cover for visitors to England never mention the need for health insurance.

Could this be because insurers have managed not to cover for everything. One need to ask the question on how one ever travel to the US where cost of medical care is extremely high.

It may well be prudent for government to insist that non EU visitors to this country must have mandatory Health Insurance as part of the admission requirement. This should apply to students and tourists alike. After all nobody in their right mind would dream of going to the US without proper insurance.

We have managed to get people to insure their cars, why not their bodies.

There is of course the need to fully control Health Insurers for those that live in England if they want cover. 

Let people opt out of the NHS if it is so bad! But Insurers need to cover every thing. 

Citizens could be given a tax break and yet have the insurance policy incorporated into their NI/NHS number so that those with the tax break, the insurer will be charged for every kind of medical care they receive if they were within the NHS.

 ©2014 Am Ang Zhang

 

Summary of a popular post:

·                     Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
·                     Limits premium spread to normal, high risk and healthy risk to say under 20% either way of normal.
·                     Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age.
·                     Prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick and need it most.
·                     Caps out-of-pocket expenses so people don’t go broke when they get sick.
·                     Eliminates extra charges for preventive care.
·                     Contribute to an ABTA style cover in case Insurance Companies go bust and many might.

We could legislate that Insurers will have to pay for any NHS treatment for those covered by them. It will stop Insurers “gaming” NHS hospitals. This will prevent them saving on costly dialysis and Intensive Care. Legislate for full disclosure of Insured status.

Insurers cannot drop coverage or treatment after a set period and even if they do they will still be charged if the patient is transferred to an NHS Hospital.

This will eliminate problems like PIP breast implants.

It will indeed encourage those that could afford it to buy insurance and in any case most firms offer insurance for their employees including the GMC.

To prevent gaming of Insurers by individual patients (I look after their interest too), the medical fee should be paid up front by the patient and then deduction taken from premiums. Corporate clients like those with the GMC should not be gaming Insurers.

Imagine the situation where those with “individual personalised budget” being able to “buy” their own insurance!

In fact, to save money, government can buy insurance for the mental patients and the chronically ill.

This way there will be real choice and insurers will be competing with each other to provide the worst deal.

Why?

What Health Insurer will want the business? 

©2014 Am Ang Zhang


Perhaps they will go back to the US and we will have our own NHS back.     

Monday, March 27, 2017

Empathy & Fragile Lives: NHS & Free Thinking!

When the book by Stephen Westaby turned up for reasons too complex to explain, the Cockcroach Catcher somehow managed to read the most important chapter that was quoted by many reviewers.

When I turned back to the beginning, I have to disagree with Westaby’s proud claim that he lacked empathy from lack of sleep as a Junior Doctor and that was why he became a heart surgeon.

Brought me back to how one could help people who has lost their life saving during the financial crises and became depressed and suicidal. Is empathy going to help? What about someone giving him back all the money he has lost? Would he still kill himself?

Well the “empathy-free” Westaby arrived in Australia for a conference only to receive a call asking him to go back to England as a mother of a 6 month old girl would only have him operate on her daughter to save her life. So Westaby immediately arranged to fly back and planned his operation/s on the long flight back. I call that real "empathy"!

Unfortunately what was planned did not work and the parents were counseled to say farewell. Westaby did not join in with the “empathy” as he did not try to comfort the parents. It was left to the others.

No, he decided to try something that has never been tried. As the parents went in afterwards thinking that they were going to say goodbye, mother felt the girl's feet which was the warmest it has been, she realised that her faith in Westaby was totally justified.

The girl is still alive today. Westaby was threatened with the sack for doing something that has never been done before.

Well, that is my kind of “empathy”!

It was great to see him in person at Sage, Gateshead for the BBC Free Thinking event. The book is for all of you that loved the NHS, the NHS Original, the NHS born in the same month and year Westaby was born. We need to bring it back and we need to let good doctors do what they think is best, even if it is not NICE approved. Free thinking indeed!


Gateshead © Am Ang Zhang 2017


Westaby must have the last words:

Who would be a heart surgeon now? With long, taxing operations, anxious relatives, the nights and weekend on call. Worse still, a health system entrenched in nonsensical bureaucracy with the reward of public exposure for a run of bad luck. Already 60 per cent of our children’s heart surgeons are overseas graduates.

In the final analysis, a profession that dwells upon death is unlikely to prosper – undertakers and the military aside. As Dr Kirklin emphasised, some deaths in cardiac surgery are inevitable. When a surgeon is focused on helping as many patients as his ability will allow, some will die. But we should not accept inconsistent teams, substandard facilities or lack of vital equipment. Otherwise patients die needlessly.


The answer? Bury the blame-and-shame culture and give us the tools to do the job.





Thursday, March 9, 2017

Obstacle to Knowledge: Barry Marshall



“The greatest obstacle to knowledge

is not ignorance;

it is the illusion of knowledge”.

Barry Marshall



I was visiting my good friend in Fremantle in Perth. He was apologetic that Perth is not really near anywhere and all they have is beach and mining.

Sharks too.

He need not have apologised. I was happy to be near where one of the greatest medical breakthrough since Koch’s TB  over a hundred years ago: Helicobacter pylori.

The temperature was in the mid 40s and the plants were unusual!



© Am Ang Zhang 2013


© Am Ang Zhang 2013



© Am Ang Zhang 2013




© Am Ang Zhang 2013


The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2005: "for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease"

 



Peptic ulcer – an infectious disease!
This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who with tenacity and a prepared mind challenged prevailing dogmas. By using technologies generally available (fibre endoscopy, silver staining of histological sections and culture techniques for microaerophilic bacteria), they made an irrefutable case that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is causing disease. By culturing the bacteria they made them amenable to scientific study.
In 1982, when this bacterium was discovered by Marshall and Warren, stress and lifestyle were considered the major causes of peptic ulcer disease. It is now firmly established that Helicobacter pylori causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and up to 80% of gastric ulcers. The link between Helicobacter pylori infection and subsequent gastritis and peptic ulcer disease has been established through studies of human volunteers, antibiotic treatment studies and epidemiological studies.
Helicobacter pylori causes life-long infection
Helicobacter pylori is a spiral-shaped Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the stomach in about 50% of all humans. In countries with high socio-economic standards infection is considerably less common than in developing countries where virtually everyone may be infected.
Infection is typically contracted in early childhood, frequently by transmission from mother to child, and the bacteria may remain in the stomach for the rest of the person's life. This chronic infection is initiated in the lower part of the stomach (antrum). As first reported by Robin Warren, the presence of Helicobacter pylori is always associated with an inflammation of the underlying gastric mucosa as evidenced by an infiltration of inflammatory cells.
The infection is usually asymptomatic but can cause peptic ulcer
The severity of this inflammation and its location in the stomach is of crucial importance for the diseases that can result from Helicobacter pylori infection. In most individuals Helicobacter pylori infection is asymptomatic. However, about 10-15% of infected individuals will some time experience peptic ulcer disease. Such ulcers are more common in the duodenum than in the stomach itself. Severe complications include bleeding and perforation.
The current view is that the chronic inflammation in the distal part of the stomach caused byHelicobacter pylori infection results in an increased acid production from the non-infected upper corpus region of the stomach. This will predispose for ulcer development in the more vulnerable duodenum.


How to prove it: He drank the bacteria!

You could say that. I drank the bacteria and at first I was okay. But instead of being perfectly well and having a silent infection, after about five days I started having vomiting attacks. Typically at dawn I would wake up, run to the toilet and vomit. And it was a clear liquid, as if you had drunk a pint of water and regurgitated it straight back. Not only that, there was no acid in it. I remembered from my medical student days that if you have a meal where you drink so much beer that it’s coming back up straight away, it doesn’t have any acid in it. I knew there was something unusual about vomiting and not having acid.

                                                                                        Barry Marshall   

Difficult 10 years:
The medical establishment was difficult to persuade - everyone accepted that ulcers were caused by acid, stress, spicy foods, and should be treated by drugs blocking acid production. The big Pharmas were not happy to see any change as patients will have to take medication for life.


He went to the US to try and persuade the US doctors.

A big battle was still going on. I went to America to fight the battle there, because unfortunately the American medical profession was extremely conservative: ‘If it hasn’t happened in America, it hasn’t happened’. We needed people in the United States to take the treatment which we had developed.

Getting Personal:

The personal stuff was usually said behind my back, and my wife used to catch a bit of it. For example, I was at a conference, presenting our work. By then I had a few converts, who would be saying, ‘Oh, Barry, this is exciting. What are you going to do next?’ So they would talk to me, but 90 per cent of the audience wouldn’t know enough about it. And my wife would be on the bus tour with all the other wives, sitting in behind some of them. One wife would be saying to another one, ‘My husband said he couldn’t believe it. They had that guy from Australia talking about bacteria in the stomach. What a load of rubbish. This drug company’s reputation is mud’ ‑ because that company would be funding the bus tour at the conference. So things like that used to go on behind the scenes.


Finally:

It wasn’t settled until people did a truly double-blind study, using an acid blocker and also amoxicillin and a third antibiotic called tinidazol. All of those antibiotics could be given in a placebo, so one group of patients could take the ‘real’ antibiotics and the others would take antibiotics that were absolutely identical but were ‘fake’, and even the doctors didn’t know which patient was getting which treatment. That trial was done in Austria and was then published in America, in the New England Journal [of Medicine], which would have the most stringent criteria for medical research.
One year later, at a big think-tank in Washington to which I was invited, it was declared proven: ‘The treatment for ulcers is now antibiotics.’ That was vindication, in effect. The implication, once you say that in the United States and the NIH [National Institutes of Health] or somebody like that puts a document out and everyone accepts it, is that you have to follow it. In 1994 there were thousands of professors and scientists in the US making a living off Helicobacter.
“Ideas without precedent are generally looked upon with disfavour 
and men are shocked if 
their conceptions of an orderly world are challenged.” 

Bretz, J Harlen 1928. Dry Falls-Thinking Outside The Box

Also, thinking out of the box can be a good idea. Sometimes it’s better not to know all the dogma, all the things about a very difficult disease. If it’s very difficult, that means people have been working on it for years and they haven’t figured out the cure, which means they haven’t figured out the cause. So having all that knowledge that’s been accumulated in the last 10 or 20 years is really not an advantage, and it’s quite good to go and tackle a problem with a fresh mind when no-one else has had any luck.
                                                                                      Barry Marshall