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Medical care in the ACT

By madocci - 7 March 2008 18

I would like to share my experience with the medical care facilities in the ACT in the hope that some change in focus begins to occur. My three year old son was referred for a hearing test and paediatrician consult for a speech delay last week. Upon calling the ACT health number for a hearing test I was told that the first available was in July. Only one other centre in the ACT does them. I called the other centre and booked in for the first available appointment which is in April. I called the paediatrician and booked the first available appointment – also in April. Feeling more and more concerned over the quality of care and the length of delay in the ACT (based upon previous experience with my child) I found the name of a paediatric allergies specialist in Sydney (the best in Sydney I am told) and rang for an appointment. I was able to book in within a week (even though this specialist only does consultations two days per week).

BTW – I am told that paediatricians don’t exist in cities anymore, they are all specialised.

We visited the first specialist in Sydney yesterday. It cost $130, the Canberra general paediatrician was going to cost ~$200. The doctor said he needed to be operated on by winter or there would be a high risk of a permanent speech delay. We were referred that day to (the best in Sydney according to the doctor) an ear nose and throat child specialist. They squeezed us in, did a hearing test on the spot, booked in surgery for 1 months time.

What amazes me is that if I had just booked into the first hearing test provided by the ACT government in July, a permanent speech delay would have been likely. The ACT offices could not give me any information about where else I could go for a hearing test. They just told me to go on the waiting list. How many people can’t afford the private costs and are therefore have children who are delayed – causing how many other associated problems?! The countless number of doctors in Canberra that my child had seen had never spotted the mass of related symptoms. The long term abnormal wax build up in his ears was never noticed or spotted. Luckily we have a fantastic GP (who is hard to get into because the secret is out about how good they are) or the relationship between symptoms may have been spotted too late.

Why is the health minister concentrating on the sale of cigarettes and not the lack of quality, timely health services for children in the ACT? The priorities seem to be a little off to me. The time spent organising something so costly and ridiculous would be better spent bettering our health services. If you have to go to a major city to get decent health care, then referrals and information should be given to ensure delays do not cause longer ongoing problems (and their associated costs) to the ACT down the line.

As a parent with a child at risk due to the lack of care in the ACT, it makes me extremely angry. I would advise any parents with children needing specialist care to go directly to Sydney and not waste your time here. We made appointments and saw the two top related child specialists in Sydney faster than it would have taken me to book into my GP here.

What’s Your opinion?


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18 Responses to
Medical care in the ACT
iceu 10:51 pm 07 Mar 08

Just thought I’d point out it’s not just services for children. It happens for adults too.

I see a specialist at the Canberra Hospital and although I’m meant to have (and always had prior to moving to Canberra) three monthly appointments, they are booked out to about five months ahead. The only consolation is that the longer I’ve been there, the more willing they seem to be to squeeze me in immediately if there’s an emergency.

sepi 8:45 pm 07 Mar 08

Canberra has the lowest amount of bulk billing appointments in the country, and the second lowest number of doctors per capita in Australia.

We are seriously disadvantaged on basic healthcare.

ant 3:15 pm 07 Mar 08

We are definitely under-doctored, it takes forever to find a GP accepting new patients, and forget seeing a doctor the same day.

Dermatologists! What a mess. A few years back when I needed to find one, we had 3, and the shortest waiting list to see one was 6 months. One of the receptionists I spoke to suggested Campbletown, and when I went to the Dermatologists’ website, it had some listed in towns between Canberra and Sydney, so ended up going to one in the southern highlands. 1 week wait.

I need to book in to see the local allergist, and am expecting it to be a many-months wait.

Danman 11:13 am 07 Mar 08

Unfortunately – as the medical system is way way way understaffed, and as callous as it is, The system in Canberra is such that permanent speech problem is still not considered life threatening or urgent.

Are you on Public or private system ?

I know that well before Mrs Danmanand I start trying for kids we will be on the private system.

123qwe 11:09 am 07 Mar 08

Unfortunately (travel, find somewhere to stay, zero earning capacity), Sydney is the place to go for superior health services (especially Paediatrics). I have a 3 y.o. son who was misdiagnosed by so-called “professionals” in Brisbane.

Not happy with their opinions, we took to him Westmead Kids Hospital, they conducted biology tests, and diagnosed cancer. The doctors in Brisbane said the lump will go down eventually! We would have been better off speaking to the clown doctors.

Although Sydney is a difficult place to temporarily reside in, it is the best option for Paediatric services.

barney 10:47 am 07 Mar 08

I am still waiting for a brain donor…

postmanpat 10:45 am 07 Mar 08

It is one thing to accept thats the way it is with non-life threatening surgery. It is another for a young child to have a permanent speech problem as a result of poor information.

Danman 10:12 am 07 Mar 08

I have been waiting for about 6 months for a raft of ear nose and throat operations to fix up my hearing and lack of air pressure balance behind my eardrum and sleep apnoea.

It seems its just the way it is with non life threatening surgery – I have accepted that.

justbands 9:40 am 07 Mar 08

> but that adequate referrals to cities are given

Yes, fair point….certainly required if the system as I described it is to work properly.

madocci 9:32 am 07 Mar 08

Justbands – I think if you note my point on a solution, it is not that we truck in all the specialists or a complaint about having to go to sydney, but that adequate referrals to cities are given. I had to self source, and have done every time to find a specialist. BTW – Hearing tests are not performed by specialist doctors. Also, Canberra has less services that a rural area due to the lack of government incentives for medicos to relocate here. It is too big to qualify for those benefits, and too small to attract enough quality medical specialists. My point is that this situation can in fact be managed by those paid to do so – the minister for health would be a good start I would have thought.

madocci 9:27 am 07 Mar 08

At least I just had the satisfaction of cancelling a hearing appointment in the ACT, that would have occured two days after he is operated on in Sydney.

justbands 9:25 am 07 Mar 08

Fact is, as far as cities go…Canberra isn’t one. We just simply don’t have the population to support having numerous medical specialists sitting around waiting for urgent work to roll in on a regular basis. What we do have here is a level suitable to our population & requirements. I think it’s perfectly normal & acceptable that in some circumstances we be expected to make the short trip up the road to the largest city in the country for specialist care.

hairy nosed wombat 9:20 am 07 Mar 08

Why is the health minister concentrating on the sale of cigarettes and not the lack of quality, timely health services for children in the ACT?

it is pure and simple. Bread and Circuses.

postmanpat 9:08 am 07 Mar 08

Meanwhile there is plenty of money for arboriums, the jail and public artwork. Crazy town!

smilesr 8:56 am 07 Mar 08

A work colleague’s child was in hospital for a badly broken leg and had to wait 3 days to be operated on. 3 days! I was horrified – the poor kid! Having to wait several days just to see a GP these days makes me really wonder about the situation here.

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