Education means investing in an employable workforce. Healthcare means investing in a healthy community.

When ‘Sir Les Patterson’ style politicians get caught out wasting money on shabby deals, they tend to respond with funding cuts to serious portfolios like education and healthcare. The result is long-term pain for short-term gain.

A nursing educator complained to me over lunch last week that she had recently spent days at her university office, filling out paperwork and doing reports.

“I had to fail a third year nursing student” she explained. “There was no way I could let her pass in all honestly. Mind you, it would have been a lot easier to have turned a blind eye”.

I asked why she failed the student.

“She completely misread a patient’s drug chart. Instead of giving them an intravenous drug, she gave the patient an oral one. What’s more the two drugs are not related. The student’s English is terrible, she makes mistakes all the time. She can’t relate to patients or other staff. She’s unsafe. I had to fail her. But of course, students have so many rights these days, it’s turned into a paper war… What pisses me off is that so many other teachers have passed her and left me with the job of failing her, in her third-year placement”.

I have heard this story numerous times, from nurse educators. I have personally failed a third-year nurse from Asia, who spoke virtually no English and made repeated mistakes on the ward, including drug errors. Australian qualified nurses have also told me of serious errors committed by University trained nursing students, with no understanding of basic procedures, like priming an IV line.

When I did my Registered Nursing course, a fellow student was failed in his final year, for terrible English, lack of social skills and an inability to grasp the consequences of his actions. This student was from China. He had previously completed an engineering degree from another university. Why are Australian universities repeatedly passing students with such poor English skills?

Money is one possibility. Foreign students pay full fees. They bring up to four times more money into TAFE’s and Universities than Australian students. Money to Universities and TAFE’s has repeatedly been cut by both major political parties. The result has been buck chasing (or overseas student chasing) at the expense of local people with suitable skills and solid work prospects. The issue of substandard overseas students being routinely passed by Australian educational institutions is a hot topic with many lecturers.

And why was this man from China hopping from one degree to another?

Australia’s immigration rules ‘reward’ some professions and penalize others.

When hard-core business principles like ‘the market should decide who wins’ is transposed to broad social services like education, the result is wasted tax payers money and poor services for the general community.

The OECD countries on average grew their real public investments in tertiary education by 62 percent over the 1995 to 2009 period. By contrast, Australia only grew its investment in tertiary education by 17 percent.

Universities Australia 2014.

Cutting education to pay for waste and shonky deals is not good economic policy. Robert Menzies, the ‘patron saint’ of the Liberal party would roll in his grave if he could see the dwindling numbers of Australians attending our educational institutions. He would not be very happy to be given the wrong drug in an Australian hospital by a nurse who could not speak English either.

The same sham-economics affects the funding of Australian hospital staff.

Overseas nurses and doctors currently attract visa subsidies for hospitals, making them cheap to hire. Faced with long-term and severe funding squeeze, hospitals are now cutting back Australian staff, and instead actively seeking out the subsidised overseas staff.

The consequences are Australian nurses and doctors being unable to gain employment in the same country that paid billions of taxes to train them.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association has claimed that as many as 33% of newly graduated nurses from last years ended up jobless, many are only working casual and want to work more hours. Only 15% of Graduate nurses gained permanent employment. Doctors are now facing the same problems.

The AMA estimates that 200 doctors will be unable to obtain a residents program in 2015, due to lack of funding for places. The Australian Medical Student Association believes that many will be forced to seek an internship overseas.

The number of public hospital beds has been slashed by 43% since 1992 – 1993. The Commonwealth has reduced hospital billion by 1.8 billion up to 2017 – 2018 by withdrawing funding guarantees. 2015 Public Hospital report card.

Australian Medical Association.

Good education policy means investing in an employable workforce. Good healthcare policy means investing in a healthy community.

The long-term results of sham-economics are currently being paraded in the mainstream media.

The Greek economic is facing total collapse. Greek hospitals are currently dependent on third-world style aid while the Greek brain-drain is pulling thousands of doctors out of the country to work in wealthier countries like Germany. Like an Aesop fable, the Greek financial and social disaster has been unfolding for years. Failure to move from the village mentality to modern society, failure to pay taxes and un-repayable loans constructed by accountants at Goldman Sacks are all being blamed. Before we take on too pompous a tone towards our Athenian cousins, we should look at ourselves.

Are Australians resisting the move from our English Colonial past into a modern society, failing to control corrupt unions and shonky business practices and hiding our poor economic performance behind crafty accounting practices?

Is Australia at risk of becoming the Greece of Asia?

Wikihospitals July 2015