Over the last few weeks I have been experiencing (as a concerned onlooker) the wonderful public health system in Australia. What I have taken away from this is the determination to hang on to my private health cover no matter what.

First – how to find the patient in the public health system. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? After all, all you need to do is ring the hospital and ask. This was where I discovered that at least one public hospital in my city is populated by staff unable to do a simple search on their own computer system for a name, that you are spelling out for them. I was informed that she was not there a few times before they finally found her. At least I was spared the necessity of pointing out that as she had a broken leg, she was unlikely to have walked away.

Second – they’ll operate first thing in the morning. Make that the afternoon. No, tomorrow. Afternoon. One can only hope they would have be more prompt if it was life threatening.

Okay, the medical side of things was fine. The surgery went well, and the nursing care was excellent. However, let’s move on to the next bizarre circumstance.

Third – the hospital wants to move a patient on to make room for another patient. The difficulty is this patient cannot simply be discharged, as they need rehab. But they’re not ready for rehab. What to do? Ah yes, let’s ship the patient off to a very old and run down ‘hospital’ to wait until they’re ready. The patient may object to this, so let’s lie to the patient and tell them they’re going straight to rehab. They’ll find out once they get there, but hey, too late, they can’t walk away so they’re stuck.

Fourth – the alleged hospital that receives these patients does not even have a doctor on premises much of the time. It functions as a holding place for people waiting for rehab and dementia patients waiting for nursing homes. There seems to be no issue with putting physically injured patients in with dementia patients so they can be constantly disturbed through the night. Hardly ideal for either patient, I would have thought, but this is business as usual for public health.

Fifth – medical staff will formulate and follow a plan of action for the patient’s recovery. Just kidding, what will happen is that your doctor tells you something, another doctor tells you something else, the physiotherapist has a completely different story, and several nurses also weigh in with their own version of events and opinions, leaving the patient bewildered, stressed, and completely in the dark about what is going to happen and how they are going to recover. Nurses will decide the patient ‘has anxiety issues’ if they ask for clarification.

Australia has a much better health system than many countries, and I cannot fault the medical care in this instance. I believe what I have seen can be put down to one cause – lack of funds. When there isn’t enough money that is when organization starts to flounder. Underfunded hospitals are understaffed hospitals, and they have to find the easiest way of doing things. Long-term care is perhaps seen as not the highest priority. Most importantly, it means the welfare of patients takes a back seat. They ask for information, and for reassurance, and they are denied this because no one has had the time to properly organize it and certainly no time to explain things to the patient. This is concerning, because it leads to action being taken without the patient’s informed consent. That’s not a good outcome. Surely it should be about more than the surgery that fixed the broken leg. After all, the leg’s not really fixed until the patient is back home and back on their feet.

Our government forgets what they’re there for. They forget that the welfare of their citizens should be their overriding concern. It’s time they stepped up and budgeted for the good of the people. It sounds like a fairy-tale, but what if we had just and benevolent government? Wouldn’t that be great?


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