Jane felt the baby’s head. Little Jamie was hot. Too hot.
“Philip”, she screamed, “I’m scared!”
Jane’s husband dragged himself out of bed and with considerable effort limped down the corridor to his daughter’s bedroom. One look told him she was feverish.
Jane was sponging Jamie gently and had administered yet another dose of Infant Panadol but the fever wasn’t coming down.
“Philip, we have to fly out. We have to. If we wait it will be too late. Jamie will die.”
“Darling, perhaps another few hours? It is so expensive to fly out, our insurance only covers half of the cost.”
Jane looked at him in despair, her heart pounding and tears brimming.
“Philip, look what happened to your leg. We hoped it would heal, we waited. When we finally went to New Zealand it was too late for the doctors to do anything.”
Jane stared at him. She didn’t really know the history, but she remembered Philip researching when he had injured his leg.
“I’m going to start packing, come and tell me while I pack.”
Philip limped after her, trying to remember his research. He explained that when his grandparents were young there was a system called HECS and university fees were regulated. There was also the system called Medicare, where Australians paid a levy with their tax to fund a universal health insurance system and public hospitals and the like.
Jane just stared at him. “Really?” she asked, “Why are we still living here?”
“Well, there are some great things about Australia, Jane. We just don’t have anywhere near enough doctors.”
It had got to the point where a medical degree cost about $400,000 and students simply picked cheaper degrees. Some went overseas to study, but invariably stayed overseas once they had graduated. Australia just didn’t have doctors any more, only a very few who charged so much only the very rich could be treated within Australia. All of those doctors did community work, but there were so few of them.
There weren’t even many nurses any more. The once bustling public hospitals had few staff and one could wait a week in the emergency department.
Health insurance companies had stepped in to offer cover for treatment in New Zealand, including half the flight costs. The insurance companies had recently started flying their own planes. New Zealand’s biggest export to Australia was now medical treatment.
Wait a week in an emergency department or fly to New Zealand in two hours and see a doctor? Philip knew Jane was right. They had to fly.
Their insurance cover allowed one carer to fly with the patient: Philip would stay home. He picked up the phone to make the arrangements.
The insurance company asked the usual.
“Have you had the Skype consultation?”
“Has the fever been for longer than 24 hours?”
“Is the child adequately hydrated for the flight?”
“No, she may need a drip.”
The questions continued. In the end Philip was told they would be collected in thirty minutes. He helped Jane make sure she had everything: passport, insurance identification, proof-of-parenthood card, Jamie’s bottles and nappies.
Right on time the car arrived and Jane and Jamie headed to the local departure port. These new shuttle planes were small and fast, moving five patients at a time across the Tasman.
The New Zealand nurse checked Jamie’s vital signs and nodded at Jane.
“You made the right choice, I suspect meningitis.”
Very carefully the nurse inserted the cannula and got the drip going. Jane felt the relief wave over her: her baby would be safe.
Tears rolled down Philip’s cheeks. He couldn’t be with his wife and precious child. Would they get to New Zealand in time? He looked up at a photo of his grandparents and yelled “You stupid bastards!”
He looked at his prosthetic leg. It allowed him to work and live a relatively normal life, but if they’d had appropriate medical care at the time, he’d still have his leg. Amputation had been the only option to save his life. Now his daughter was at risk.
The plane landed at the Christchurch hospital port and Jamie was rushed into the emergency bay.
Jamie was in hospital for a week, but she recovered.
Jane and Philip had their little ray of sunshine back.
Now they had to hope nothing else went wrong. Their insurance cover allowed two medivacs every five years and this was their second in three years. If anything else went wrong, they’d have to pay and they couldn’t afford it.
* * * * * *
At least one health fund is ALREADY providing cover for Australians to go overseas for dental treatment. Reality. Now.