From the time I left my parents hospital cover as a young adult until after the mental health crisis of Christmas 2007, I made a decision that I would get what I needed in the public health system, even during those few phases of my life when I could choose otherwise. Anyway I was going to look at the two systems before and after actually being hospital for my bottom surgery last Thursday. But time got away from me, as it does. I came home from hospital last Saturday and I thought I would have got around to it before now, but let's just say pain is still my friend, as are the heavy duty painkillers that make me nod off in the middle of the day and may well make me say things I might regret later (insert TMI and long ramble warning here - if you don't want to hear me talk about my bottom issues and other gruesome things I might mention, look away now - otherwise feel very free to use the words bum, bugger, bottom and etc).
Before I went to hospital I was taken with how quickly everything moved. The condition (an external thrombosed hemorrhoid) flared up on the Thursday, I saw my GP (at an excellent bulk billing community health centre in the public system) on the Saturday, rung the specialist on the Monday and had an appointment the very next day. He offered me surgery that Thursday, but I had started to manage the 'roid well enough to put it off until the following Thursday, after craft camp (priorities, priorities). Which also gave me some time to get some pyjamas organised. Last time I had bottom surgery in 2002, my GP had sent me to the emergency department with a referral and I saw the specialist in an outpatient clinic a week and a half later (which meant a week and a half off work as I couldn't sit down - different type of 'roid). As I was pregnant at the time, I had banding (which suited that type of 'roid) and the actual surgery wasn't until over a year later and it was done as day surgery. Meaning I was sent home with no idea of wound care, no pain management routine and not having used my bowels. It was fairly traumatic on many levels.
This time my GP advised me to at least see the private surgeon, who as it turned out could have referred me into the public system where I would have had a much shorter wait and less cost (not sure how that works exactly but it seems like a lurk) or I could get it done on a Thursday of my choosing. Deciding that having a flare up again was something to be avoided at all costs (it had hurt so much that I had considered going to emergency and could barely walk for two days), I opted for the more expensive option. And I was told that I would be in hospital at least one night. Wow. Turns out that they don't like to let you go until you have had a bowel movement, but there's a reason I'm prone to 'roids and one of them is that new places cause me to seize up. As do morphine based drugs, lack of activity, being around sick people and hospital food. So I stayed two nights. But by the second morning, the novelty of lying around had well and truly worn off and I was so desperate to go home and made a good case for it. But you know, I get the feeling that I could have easily stayed another night. There just wasn't the same pressure on beds. Which seems odd, because sick people are sick people.
I didn't get a room of my own, obviously there are private hospitals and private hospitals, most rooms had two people in them and I was sharing with a very sick and disoriented old lady who would call out in the middle of the night and I would buzz for the nurse which worked well enough until the shift when nurse ratchett was on. Same ratio of mean nurses to the public system, that is most nurses were lovely but there was always one. I felt sorry for the old lady, she deserved better than that nurse. The food was exactly the same level of crappiness as in the public system too. Reminds me of how well we eat at home. Would it be so hard to use a good (or even average) quality bread and provide some fresh fruit and plain yoghurt? And real coffee? Even if you had to buy it from a coffee cart or something? The rooms weren't any flasher, except that the use of the TV was included. Indeed nothing was really any different except that I didn't have to wait, got to choose a surgeon (which really was just the one my GP referred me to, it's not like I know a great deal about colorectal surgeons in Melbourne) and I got to stay overnight. Oh, and there weren't hordes of student doctors, which did seem a bit strange. Oh, and I was sent home with a a follow up appointment with the surgeon and a big bag of drugs and there will no doubt be a bill for all those little extras that I didn't pay for up front like the anesthetist's gap (I have cheap health insurance with a high excess). It was in hindsight more serious surgery than the last one, but less traumatic than it could have been. Except for when I think that I can do OK with just the panadol and anti-inflammatory. The doctor did say to not let the pain get on top of me and to use the stronger painkillers when necessary. But he only wrote me a certificate for a week and there's no way I can function on any level with the la la drugs. But the feeling of doing a barbed wire poo doesn't do much for my composure either. I seem to remember a similar issue with medical certificates last time. What is this modern obsession with hurrying back to work? Not to worry, GP appointment again on Saturday. Methinks another week off might be in order.
Anyway I still think what I thought before. That money spent on health insurance would be better going straight into the health care system. Except that for some reason people don't seem to mind paying for insurance in the same way they hate paying tax. That the work it takes to administer a health insurance scheme could be better spent administering actual health care. It bothers me when I see people (customers) at work that wait for up to two years for surgery that means they can work again. Maybe we could elect the level of medicare we paid, basic or fancy. Fancy only adding some frills to the service you got in hospital but not to your genuine care.
Or perhaps we could get a grip as a society and decide that everyone deserves timely health care. Not just those who can pay for it.