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A deadly outbreak of measles could strike within weeks because many parents are refusing to let their children have the controversial MMR jab, health experts warned yesterday. Officials claim thousands of youngsters could fall prey to an epidemic on a scale not seen since the Thirties. A dramatic fall in the number of vaccinations means that in many parts of the country fewer than three toddlers in four have received the jab, and numbers are continuing to fall. In some parts of London, the uptake rate for the measles, mumps and rubella triple vaccine is even lower – 64 per cent in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority and 63 per cent in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. The World Health Organisation says vaccine coverage must reach 95 per cent to keep a disease at bay. MMR has been linked by some to the development of bowel disease and autism. The Department of Health insists major studies have failed to find any such link. However, its campaign to reassure parents has been dented by Tony Blair’s failure to confirm publicly whether his 19-month-old son Leo has been vaccinated. Personalized Freemasonry face mask
Concern among public health doctors has led to renewed efforts in some areas to increase the number of children receiving the MMR jab. A campaign was launched in Cheshire yesterday following a fall in the number vaccinated from 90 per cent three years ago to 77 per cent. Doctors say this is low enough for an epidemic to occur at any time. It raises the spectre of a measles out-break on a scale last seen three-quarters of a century ago. More than 1,600 children under five contracted the disease in Warrington, Cheshire, in 1930 during an outbreak which lasted from the beginning of March to the end of June. Thirty-one children died – twice the average annual death toll from measles for that area at the time. Thanks to the modern vaccination programme, there have been no deaths from measles in England and Wales in the past ten years. Dr Bernard Schlecht, consultant in communicable disease control for North Cheshire Health Authority, said: ‘There is a risk of children catching this killer disease this winter if they are not protected with the MMR vaccine. ‘Those who lived through the devastating outbreak of measles in Warrington in 1930 will never forget it. ‘But there is a very real chance that parents today have never seen a case of measles and simply don’t realise how dangerous it can be.’ The NHS target is for 95 per cent of children to receive MMR, which is given at around 15 months and followed by a booster jab. But the national rate is now only 84.2 per cent – the lowest since the triple vaccine was introduced 11 years ago. In London it is only 72 per cent. Dr Schlecht said: ‘The numbers began dropping after all the media hype about the safety of MMR in 1998. But the simple truth is, it is extremely safe. I had no hesitation in having my own child vaccinated and I urge all parents to do the same.’ However, Jabs, the support group for parents concerned about MMR, accused the health authority of scaremongering. Spokesman Jackie Fletcher said: ‘It is the combination factor we have got the argument with. ‘The single vaccines have been used for far longer in the UK. They have got a much better track record and parents should have the right to choose them.’
Newfoundland and Labrador’s four health authorities have signed a deal with a U.S.-based health-care company that promises financial incentives — totalling tens of millions of dollars — if it cuts costs at hospitals and long-term care homes across the province. The contract puts the Change Healthcare Canada — its Canadian headquarters are in British Columbia — in charge of building software that involves health-care scheduling and collaborating with the health authorities on “improved operational efficiency and anticipated cost savings.” Those savings could come from reducing staffing costs, overtime, sick time, payroll errors and time-keeping labour, the contract states. The contract comes with a lucrative possibility: the more savings Change Healthcare helps find, the more money it makes, up to $35 million over the course of the deal. The provincial government, however, said the goal of the project is not to cut spending but to avoid staff burnout. The contract came into effect in June with no public announcement before or after the deal was done — a signing that gave $3 million up front to Change Healthcare to begin months of preparation prior to the five-year operational side of the deal kicking in. The contract’s signatures include those of a Change Healthcare executive vice-president, the chief executive officers of Eastern, Central, Western and Labrador-Grenfell Health, and the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, an entity that oversees the province’s health-care information system and electronic records. The deal also states the health authorities will cover sales tax and fees for any work Change Healthcare does beyond the contract’s original scope. The authorities will also have to pay up to $5 million in penalties if they don’t achieve 95 per cent adoption of the program within the organizations. Eastern Health, where the program will roll out first, did not respond to CBC’s request for an interview or comment by deadline. Fears of job cuts: union The deal came as a surprise to at least one union, representing 3,000 health-care workers in the province, which learned about it months later. Sherry Hillier, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, attended a virtual meeting in the fall to discuss details of the deal with stakeholders. Personalized Freemasonry face mask
“I was kinda like, ‘Holy God, what is this all about?'” said Hillier. The contract doesn’t get into the fine details of where savings will be achieved, and how much, but in a slide presentation from October, Change Healthcare stated its software will anticipate peak demand in the system, and will “align staffing to demand” as well as “optimize staff effectiveness.” Sherry Hillier, president of the provincial branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says members of her union who are employed in health care are overworked and racking up overtime because there aren’t enough people to do the work before them.(Heather Gillis/CBC) Hillier said she doesn’t see how that can happen, as her members are stretched thin as it is. To her, the contract means job cuts, and she questions whether an algorithm can match up to the reality of people’s day-to-day duties. “My biggest fear is for our members out there. Our members are overworked right now, they’re understaffed, and this system is only going to make the health-care system that much worse,” Hillier said. When the meeting ended, Hillier said, she “didn’t leave with a good feeling about this company,” and contacted CUPE counterparts across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE’s experience with Change Healthcare was one of widespread job cuts, she said, leaving those still employed struggling to manage their workloads. “It’s actually made for a devastating workforce in a couple of the hospitals in Winnipeg that CUPE represents there. It’s been bad times in Winnipeg just with this company, because of the cuts,” she said. A spokesperson for a government health agency in Manitoba, however, disagreed, saying the company’s software has “improved patient flow” and reduced reliance on overtime staffing. “We strongly dispute the assertion that there were any ‘job cuts’ related to the implementation of this software,” the spokesperson said in an email, “and have continued to actively recruit for CUPE support staff during this time.” According to its website, Change Healthcare is “focused on accelerating the transformation of the healthcare system through insight and innovation,” and says it is one of the largest health-care networks in the United States. Hillier questions the motives of Change Healthcare to make changes — “This corporation is actually in it for the money,” she said — and asks why the health authorities could potentially give millions of dollars to an American company when the province is in dire financial straits. After the story was published, and after Hillier originally spoke to CBC News, CUPE issued a media release late Tuesday afternoon stating it wanted the four health authorities to “cancel their deal” with Change Healthcare. The union draws a connection from the contract to Ronan Seagrave, chief operating officer of Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, who was on hand when the company’s plan for N.L. Was presented to stakeholders last fall. Seagrave, according to the union’s release, was a KPMG consultant working on a report for the Manitoba health care system.
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