Wednesday, March 11, 2015

NHS & Lesser Rhea: Extinction?

Caroline Lucas
Our much-loved service is in danger. Thousands of jobs have been axed, including more than 4,000 senior nurses. More than 50 of the 230 NHS walk-in centres have been closed and 66 A&E and maternity units have been shut or downgraded. On top of this, the future mandated by the 2012 act is one where all hospitals in England that we think of as NHS hospitals only have to be 51% NHS – and 49% non-NHS. Why would anyone pay if they could get exactly the same on the NHS? This is setting up a queue-jumping service for the better-off.

The private sector is circling – there is, after all, a very tempting prize to be picked off – an annual NHS budget of £120bn. Private health firms already pocket £18m a day – that’s £6bn in the last year – from the NHS budget. More than 170 GP surgeries are run by corporations. Today, if you call 999 it could be a private ambulance crew that comes to treat you. Based on the trends that these figures show, private firms are on course to net £9bn of the NHS contracts that are up for grabs. The direction of travel is plain to see.

The inescapable truth is that the private sector is camping out on the lawn of the NHS, cherry picking. Even Norman Tebbit pointed out the dangers of this, and wondered how young NHS surgeons would learn if the private sector had nicked all the easy stuff. This is a problem that is getting worse, but it is not new. Private hospitals’ share of NHS-funded patients grew rapidly between 2006 and 2011. By 2010-11 private companies performed 17% of hip replacements, 17% of hernia repairs and handled 8% of patients’ first attendances in relation to orthopaedics or trauma, such as a broken limb.

Now Darwin's Rhea:

©2015 Am Ang Zhang
An ostrich-like bird, the Darwin’s or Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata pennata) is one of the most distinctive, fabled and endangered residents of Patagonian steppe grasslands. Two species of rhea, the Greater and Lesser, occupy overlapping ranges in Patagonia. Lesser rheas typically weigh 35-55 lbs and have spotted dun, brown, grey and white feathers. Rheas are sociable birds, typically living in groups of five to fifteen. Rheas do not fly, but thanks to their unusually large wings, which they spread behind their bodies while running from predators, they can sprint at speeds over 35 mph.
©2015 Am Ang Zhang
Rheas are omnivorous, eating everything from herbs, shrubs, seeds and roots to insects, grasshoppers, and small vertebrates such as lizards or frogs. Their main predators are pumas, foxes, and birds of prey. Mating season lasts from September to December. During this time, one male will mate with several females, all of which deposit their eggs in the male’s nest site. The males incubate the eggs for 40 days. When one chick hatches, it begins to call, which stimulates the others to hatch. The whole brood will hatch within a period of 1-2 days. Males are then in charge of rearing the chicks, which will remain in his care until May or June.

©2015 Am Ang Zhang
Rheas attracted Charles Darwin’s attention when he visited Patagonia during his voyages on the HMS Beagle. Darwin had seen many Greater Rheas, but had only heard tell from gauchos of the existence of a smaller Rhea in southern Patagonia. Puzzled by the existence of two related but different species—which challenged the then-accepted theory that every animal was created in a fixed form, perfectly adapted to its place and life—Darwin went on the hunt for the fabled Lesser Rhea. He searched for months before recognizing the bird upon his dinner plate. The gentleman-ecologist put his dinner bones back together to form the skeleton, and with the help of ornithologist John Gould he confirmed that he had finally found the Lesser Rhea. With further examination it was clear that the Greater and Lesser Rheas were indeed two distinct, yet surprisingly similar species. This discovery helped spark his theory that species could change and diverge over time, and no creature is permanently fixed in its current state of life.

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