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In the Australia of the future, you will fly out to see a doctor

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.”

“Damn our grandparents’ generation”, muttered Philip, “if only they’d never deregulated university fees and destroyed Medicare, Australia would still have local doctors!”

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?”

“Yes.”

“Has the fever been for longer than 24 hours?”

“Yes.”

“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.

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13 comments on “In the Australia of the future, you will fly out to see a doctor

  1. […] In the Australia of the future, you will fly out to see a doctor (just check it out) […]

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  2. Mrs Fitz is one of three partners in a very busy 9-doctor general practice. Her staff (18 of them) can see the oncoming problems. Many are concerned about their jobs.

    I wrote about this dismantling of Medicare on my blog at Medicare Dismantling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My thoughts go out to Mrs Fitz, her partners and the profession generally and of course to the patients – the Australian people.

      I perhaps got a little carried away writing four articles, but there was stuff I wanted to say!!

      The RACGP petiton has passed 10,000 so let’s keep it going!

      Quite interesting to see the medical profession fire up politically! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story & a scarily plausible scenario. It’s basically happened in New Zealand already on the back of the rationalisation and deregulation of the medical services; plenty of people are now remote from proper medical facilities and have to be transported to them. The worst instance is Napier, which used to have a hospital. So did Hastings. And a bean counter in Wellington had the bright idea of shutting down the Napier one in favour of Hastings – after all, two centres close together, what’s the problem? That ignored the lesson of 1931, when a major quake smashed the only hospital in the district just when it was needed. That’s why two significant hospitals were developed. Now, when there’s another quake (and it WILL happen), the Hastings hospital doesn’t even have to be destroyed to eliminate medical help for Napier, because the cities are separated by three rivers and there’s every chance that the bridges will be unusable for some time. The likely scenario is that Napier’s 65,000 people, and possibly the 150,000 of the wider district, won’t have any significant medical facilities to hand after a major disaster. It’s a moronic failure of the lessons of history – and of the way the people who plan these things don’t think laterally or widely even about the practical current situation. Sigh…

    As I write this, incidentally, the long-derelict hospital on Napier’s hill is about to be demolished in favour of new apartment blocks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At least we will be flying into Christchurch…..oh, wait…..does Christchurch still have a hospital?

      Matthew, thanks so much for the very clear and factual illustration of the Napier experience. The rationale of some decisions is often beyond comprehension when one looks at the resulting reality.

      New apartment blocks, increase in population……won’t be long before they decide Napier needs……guess what…..a hospital!

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  4. […] In the Australia of the future, you will fly out to see a doctor (just check it out) […]

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  5. A nightmarish future, it could happen.I don’t know how much more the NHS here can cope with, the UK is bursting at the seams!

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  6. I loved how you beautifully expressed the emotions in this blog post. You magically weaved the story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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