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Local News

Nimbin MardiGrass Drug Testing

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Nimbin MardiGrass Drug Testing

Nimbin MardiGrass Drug Testing

Police caught breaching RDT procedures while drug testing Greens MP

A GREENS MP is calling for all tests conducted over the Nimbin MardiGrass weekend in early May be declared invalid after breaches by a NSW police officer conducting drug tests have been revealed in a video.
The video was taken by a staff member of Cate Faehrmann, who was being tested at the time, and shows the police office without gloves while handling the testing device.
Ms Faehrmmann has written to NSW Police Minister David Elliott and the Attorney-General Mark Speakman to get the tests thrown out.

On Sunday, May 2, about 9am, Ms Faehrmann was stopped by police whilst driving to the MardiGrass festival for a random drug test just outside of Nimbin, as were hundreds of others over the course of that weekend.
Ms Faehrmann said this was a clear breach of part 1-5 of the Standard Operating Procedures for Random Oral Fluid Testing which reads: “Under no circumstances will oral fluid or equipment used to obtain oral fluid samples be handled by police without wearing protective latex or nitrile gloves”.

Ms Faehrmann has also written to the Auditor General requesting a performance audit of the scheme due several detected breaches of standard operating procedure, the inaccuracy of tests and a lack of evidence that the scheme reduces road trauma.
“All tests conducted over the Nimbin MardiGrass weekend are now in doubt and any court attendance notices or penalties issued as a result of a positive test must be withdrawn,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“The tests used are incredibly sensitive and can be easily contaminated, potentially resulting in false positives.

“We have no idea how many breaches by officers conducting the tests are going undetected and potentially causing false positives.
“Given that at least one officer on duty over the Nimbin MardiGrass weekend breached the Standard Operating Procedures for conducting oral drug tests, the Police Minister has no other choice than to declare that every test conducted over the weekend be declared potentially contaminated, and therefore invalid.”

Former Lismore magistrate David Heilpern said after viewing the photographs of the drug tests on Ms Faehrmann, it was apparent police were not complying with their own standard operating procedures.
“It beggars belief that the only test that was conducted on that day where protocols were breached was the one on a member of parliament, and it is far more likely that protocols were contravened extensively in the operation that occurred,” he said.
“Press reports state that there were more than 1500 tests conducted around Nimbin during the MardiGrass with 29 detections. The consequences of the breach are significant.

“First, all tests conducted without gloves and in breach of the protocols would be unlikely to be able to be successfully prosecuted for obvious reasons.
“Second, all subsequent tests on other people would also be suspect – the protocols have been developed to protect from cross contamination and not wearing gloves means that the testing regime is unreliable.
“Third, evidence obtained as a result of this impropriety (including stage two and three testing) would be subject to inadmissibility rulings in court proceedings under s138 of the Evidence Act NSW.”
Mr Heilpern agreed with the call for all prosecutions or penalties launched or issued as a result of the flawed testing to be withdrawn.

“This is not only because any prosecution would be likely to fail, but also out of a recognition that it would be unfair to proceed,” he said.
“Finally, these 1500 tests were conducted on unimpaired festival goers and locals going about their business. It is a colossal waste of police time, community resources and road safety funding for this to have occurred in the first place. It was not and does not even pretend to be about road safety. It is all about prohibition.

“For this to have transpired in circumstances where the police cannot even follow their own clear directives amplifies the absurdity of the entire operation.”
In a statement, a New South Wales Police spokesman said the service was aware of the incident and all officers conducting random drug tests were required to wear gloves as standard operating procedures.

However, New South Wales Police says the gloves were for hygiene purposes and did not affect the accuracy of testing or results.

Local News

Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

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Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

Veteran nurse debunks claims Tweed Hospital is ‘Falling over in a screaming heap.’

Speaking to The Northern Rivers Times on the condition of anonymity, an experienced nurse at Tweed Hospital has moved to counter some media claims the hospital is falling apart.

The nurse said the belief “Tweed Hospital has no Covid diagnosis equipment” is simply not true with Rapid Antigen Tests continuing this week for patients.  Hospital staff were also being tested at Tweed hospital.

“They still do ‘rapids’, definitely, and the results are back in half an hour,” the nurse said.

The nurse was concerned media hype did not tell the everyday story of life on hospital wards, which the nurse said were generally well-staffed and if quiet, saw some nurses redeployed to other wards.  The nurse said it was not unusual to have staff shortages anyway at this time of year or staff doing paid overtime.

“Hospital administration is still allowing people to go on annual leave, if it was in dire straits, why aren’t all the hierarchy back, they would be back if it was so bad.”

“A & E (Accident and Emergency) is certainly stretched with Covid admissions who should be staying home .. but it certainly isn’t falling apart.”

The nurse said managers and nurse unions have had ‘plenty of time’ to prepare for covid emergencies like now, including ensuring fit-testing of N95 or P2 respirators, mandatory for all frontline staff and an area lagging at Tweed Hospital.

“They could’ve planned better for this,” the nurse observed, “ .. it should’ve been done earlier.”

The experienced nurse was quick to add that negative commentary was not helpful for staff morale at a time like this.

“What we need to do is boost people up, encourage them to keep going, that we will get through this.  It’s all too easy to criticise,” the veteran nurse said.

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Business News NSW Northern Rivers

RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

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RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

RENT RELIEF CONTINUES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Small businesses who are still doing it tough across the State will continue to benefit from rent relief until 13 January 2022, ensuring ongoing support for small businesses over the Christmas and New Year’s Period.
Treasurer Matt Kean said as the economic recovery continues, many small businesses are still not back at their pre-COVID turnover and rent is still one of their biggest fixed costs.

“Small business is the engine room of our economy and as we recover from the pandemic we need to make sure we leave no one behind and support impacted businesses as they continue to recover,” Mr Kean said.
“Continuing rent relief measures for impacted small businesses will provide a necessary buffer to allow businesses time to get back on their feet and begin to thrive again.”

The Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 rent relief provisions will continue for eligible businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million, a more targeted level of support from the previous turnover threshold of $50 million.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said landlords will still be required to negotiate rent relief with eligible commercial and retail tenants that are experiencing a turnover decline of 30 per cent or more.

“Lockdown may be over but there are still small businesses, particularly in our CBDs, that are facing a slower recovery and are continuing to do it tough,” Mr Tudehope said.

“As the State continues to transition out of lockdown, 97 per cent of NSW businesses will retain access to COVID-19 rent relief provisions if they continue to experience a significant decline in turnover.”

Small commercial and retail tenants that would have continued to meet the eligibility criteria for JobSaver or the Micro-business Grant, after ending on 30 November, will remain eligible for rent relief negotiations with their landlords.
Under the Regulation, landlords are required to negotiate rent relief having regard to National Cabinet’s Code of Conduct. As a starting point, rent relief should be proportionate with eligible tenant’s decline in turnover, with at least 50 per cent in the form a waiver, and the balance a deferral.
Landlords can access the Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund, which currently provides small commercial or retail landlords with a monthly grant up to the value of any rental relief provided, to a maximum of $3,000 per month per property.
Alternatively, land tax relief is available for eligible commercial landowners who have reduced their tenants’ rent due to COVID-19, between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021. The reduction in land tax payable is the lesser of:

  • the amount of rent reduction provided to an eligible tenant for any period between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021, or
  • 100 per cent of the land tax attributable to the parcel of land leased to that tenant.

For more information on rent relief visit: Commercial leases https://www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au/get-help/covid-19/commercial-leases-and-covid-19-faqs
For more information on COVID-19 assistance for commercial and residential landlords visit: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/covid-19-help-businesses/covid-19-assistance-commercial-and-residential-landlords

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Health News

Pharmacists ready with Moderna boosters but services must be sustainable

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The Northern Rivers own newspaper

Pharmacists ready with Moderna boosters but services must be sustainable

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the announcement that Moderna’s SPIKEVAX vaccine has been provisionally approved as a booster dose for Australians aged 18 years and above.

Yesterday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) confirmed that a second vaccine will be available for the National Booster Program.

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, acknowledged further enablement of the pharmacist workforce.

“With the National Booster Program well underway, this move is timely – one that provides Australians with greater vaccine choice in the lead up to early 2022 when the majority of the population becomes eligible for their booster dose.

“This announcement, coupled with Monday’s provisional approval of Pfizer for Australians aged 5-11 years, marks a week of significant progress in the pandemic response and PSA commends the Government’s approach to making these decisions.

“This development now means that the potential number of pharmacists offering booster vaccinations across Australia has more than doubled, accounting for those already participating in the Moderna program.

“However, it is imperative that pharmacists are paid fairly, and at least equally to other providers, otherwise the provision of this critical service is not sustainable. With 2.3 million children becoming eligible for vaccination, extra consultation time will be required to undertake appropriate assessment and consenting, placing further strain on service sustainability.

“Pharmacists have already administered over 2.5 million vaccinations to Australians, and as mass vaccination hubs continue to downscale their operations over the coming months, pharmacists will become an even more critical part of the vaccination strategy,” he said.

PSA is dedicated to supporting Australian pharmacist immunisers through the National Booster Program and will continue to work closely with the TGA and ATAGI to ensure pharmacists are equipped with the most up-to-date advice regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness.

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