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Archive for July, 2007

How to solve our problems with medical doctors

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Australia has an acute shortage of medical doctors, as have some other Western countries. So, they “import” doctors from third world countries for which the loss of people in whose education they have invested much, is a disaster. Even for Western countries the acquisitions are sometimes of doubtful use, see the recent unsuccessful bomb attacks in Britain and the imprisonment in Australia, so far without any convincing justification, of a cousin of one of the British bombers.

I suggest to approach Cuba for advice and help. After all, Australia followed Cuba’s example in handing out free environment-friendly light bulbs to its populace.

See the following extract from BBC News:
Friday, 18 August 2006.
Cuba doctors popular in quake-stricken Java
By Tom Fawthrop
In Java (for complete report see BBC)

Many of the international aid teams that descended on Indonesia after the 27 May earthquake in Java, have packed up and gone home. But a medical team from Cuba has proved so popular that locals have asked it to stay on for another six months.

About half of the Cuban doctors in Indonesia are women
More than two months after the quake, the 135-strong Cuban team sees up to 1,000 patients a day at two field hospitals set up in the earthquake zone, 30km (18 miles) from Yogyakarta.

But it is not only here in Java that they are playing an important role – Cuban medical teams have quietly assumed a major role in global humanitarian relief operations usually seen as the domain of wealthy nations.

Last October, Havana sent more than 2,000 medical staff to Pakistan and set up 30 field hospitals after the earthquake there, treating more than 1.5 million people.

The two Cuban hospitals in Java are fully-equipped with X-ray machines, laboratories, operating rooms and specialists to handle the broken bones and other injuries common to earthquake victims.

About half of the 65 Cuban doctors are women, a great advantage in Muslim countries, where women may be reluctant to be examined by a male doctor.

“They treat patients like people, not just cases. Everyone I spoke to from the affected areas was so grateful. They felt they could always go to the Cuban doctors to ask a question, despite language difficulties.”

“I appreciate the Cuban medical team. Their style is very friendly. Their medical standard is very high. The Cuban hospitals are fully complete and it’s free, with no financial support from our government.

Cuba currently has about 20,000 doctors working in 68 countries across three continents, without much being said about it.

Havana rejects any suggestion of strings attached to its aid.

“We are here purely out of humanitarian motives – we hope that governments around the world will see that health is most important,” says Dr Putol.

From the early days of the 1959 revolution, President Fidel Castro prioritised education and health as pillars of the new society, and the Caribbean island now has the highest ratio of doctors per person in the world, according to the World Health Organization (which, by the way, recognizes Cuban medical degrees: my addition)

Many things could change in a post-Castro era, but most Cubans would fiercely resist any attempt to undermine the extraordinary success of their health system.

The “Paradox of the plankton”

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

According to the “Paradox of the plankton”, more plankton species exist than allowed under the competitive exclusion principle of Gause. This principle states that the number of species cannot be greater than the number of niches utilized by these species, unless certain conditions are met. The Paradox of the plankton has played a crucial role in ecological theory. Hutchinson, who formulated the paradox, explained this discrepancy by nonequilibrium conditions, due to repeated weather – and climate – induced changes in environmental conditions. Recent work on marine and freshwater plankton has shown this to be correct, but it has also shown that the number of niches available for exploitation is far greater than earlier assumed (components of the white light spectrum, additional essential resources), and that chaotic fluctuations can increase diversity even when environmental conditions are constant.

You will find a detailed discussion of these studies on the Cambridge University Press website of my book Nonequilibrium Ecology (Resources and solutions. Appendix 2).