Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Notes on Public Medicine

For any that actually read my scribbles:- please accept my apologies for my LONG silence here.

Now that has been said, I have some comments to make about the public health system in Oz, from personal first-hand experience.

I have been feeling generally unwell for months - more than the normal price of aging I mean.

Eventually, the pain in my belly helped me overcame the tendency of the majority of the male of the species to avoid seeking medical help, and I went to see a General Practitioner. Not having been to the clinic for *cough* several years, I had no preferences and saw the first available doctor.

He was excellent - thorough, knowledgeable, and experienced. Diagnosis - sigmoid diverticulitis. Treatment - mix of antibiotics. Followup - CT scan to confirm.

So, solved, right? Unfortunately not.

CT scan showed blocked blood vessels in the mesenteries of the gut, so off to hospital I go.

Now this is where it gets ridiculous. In Oz we have "free health care" funded by a "Medicare tax", and because of the amount I earn, the government requires that I have private health insurance or pay a penalty tax. All this means that I had a choice - private hospital a few minutes from home, or public hospital ten times further. Here's where my usual luck swung into action - the private hospital didn't have a surgeon available, and it looked like I would need urgent surgery, so off to the public hospital I went.

While ensconced on the "Acute Surgical Ward" I had:
1. IV antibiotics
2. IV blood thinners
3. IV pain killers
4. IV potassium supplements (also orally)
5. Multiple blood draws for tests

The one thing I did NOT have was surgery.

In all the time that I was there (several weeks), I did not learn the name of even ONE of the doctors that I saw. Bed-side manner was non-existent. I know that all of them received training in that area. After all, I know that it was part of the medical school curriculum in the seventies and eighties, as I had to pass it.

Public hospital, so I had nothing to pay, right? Wrong. Even with my private insurance, it still cost me thousands because the government only pays a percentage of the fee that the bureaucrats set in the first place, and it is illegal for my private insurer to cover the gap between the government mandated maximum fee, and the (lesser) amount that they actually pay.

If I had been able to go to the private hospital, the total cost to me would have been less than $20 - for the taxi to get there.

Public, single payer (ha!) medicine SUCKS!

... and the ultimate irony? The surgeon that was available at the public hospital ALSO operates at the private hospital - but when the query was made, the drone-on-the-phone assumed that the information in the database was incorrect, and modified it to what she thought was more likely.

No comments: