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Stories related to the current health crisis in Canberra

By scootergal 19 August 2008 39

I’m sure this topic has come up a number of times, so sorry if I’m posting something old news.  Since moving to Canberra from Queensland five years ago, I have been constantly amazed at problems with the public health system here.

Having a chronic illness, I often have to see GP’s at a moments notice, or fly in and out of hospital for treatment.  Yesterday whilst attending my local medical practice, I was told that my doctor would not be on until 11am, and asked to come back at 10:30 to register to see him.  I arrived back at that time and was told that there were four people in front of me.  I then watched eight people go in before me, then I had to go back to reception and ask how much longer it would be.  (I should point out that, with my illness, a rising temperature, dehydration and nausea are danger signs, which is what I presented with at the time). The receptionist told me there was one person ahead of me, and I demanded to go to the treatment room.  Anoother 40 minutes and I was seen, with the time taking around four hours from the moment I got there.

I understand it is a busy period with coughs and colds, that there aren’t enough doctors and the medical centre did their best.  It just frustrates me that waiting times are so long when my only option was to join another long line of sick people at the hospital. 

Another point – I have a friend who has both a husband, and a three year old son with a brain injury.  Her son had to go to Sydney to have both brain and spinal surgery at the age of two, because there is no peadiatric neurosurgeon in Canberra.  He has not learnt to swallow properly and needs help learning how to feed, and whislt there is a feeding clinic in TCH, it has no actual office and is horrendously difficult ot get into.  He has rehibilitation through TherapyACT, but only occassionally, due to the fact the workers are overworked and only work part time.  Why is this happening in the nation’s capital?

My final point is the juvenille mental health facilities in Canberra – totally appalling.  Working in an area where I see children and young people with severe mental health issues, as well as ADHD, Drug and alcohol and homelessness, most of these kids end up in either an adult facility (depending on their age), juvenille dentention or a refuge, which are terribly overcrowded.

I am just interested in hearing other people’s views on the state of the territory in terms of health issues, as it is an area of which I am a strong advocate.

What’s Your opinion?


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Stories related to the current health crisis in Canberra
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gun street girl 9:51 am 24 Aug 08

teepee said :

Sepi is right. In our lifetime there could be some pretty serious deterioration in access and quality of assessments (because of the sausage-factory model by some GP surgeries), ironically despite improving science, technology and training.

The one silver lining is that a lot of med schools were established in the last decade and the benefits of that will start to flow soon.

I believe the “breakdown” described by Sepi is already here.

Just a word on the new med schools – many are still to graduate their first cohort, so you will not see a benefit for quite some time (remember, it takes nearly a decade – sometimes more – after graduation to produce a fully independent consultant level doctor). Ironically, the Government has made a meal of that issue too – too many med schools have been opened, too fast. As such, we will potentially have the same problem as the UK – an oversupply of junior doctors, and a dearth of specialists/infrastructure to train them into consultants –> potential unemployment for those graduates who miss out completely.

peterh 4:17 pm 21 Aug 08

peterh said :

Thumper said :

sorry, the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement?? what about working on a messed up soldier who has been hit with shrapnel from a frag grenade??

excellent conditions in retirement? which force are we talking about here?

I always suspected you were an idiot. You just confirmed it.

ah, yes. but an ex adf idiot, none the less. several of my cannon fodder mates and I love a particular medic. great drinker and someone who always had our backs. He wasn’t there for the money. far from it.

and the RAAF does have cannon fodder. we were called ADG’s.

peterh 4:15 pm 21 Aug 08

Thumper said :

sorry, the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement?? what about working on a messed up soldier who has been hit with shrapnel from a frag grenade??

excellent conditions in retirement? which force are we talking about here?

I always suspected you were an idiot. You just confirmed it.

ah, yes. but an ex adf idiot, none the less. several of my cannon fodder mates and I love a particular medic. great drinker and someone who always had our backs. He wasn’t there for the money. far from it.

Thumper 3:31 pm 21 Aug 08

sorry, the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement?? what about working on a messed up soldier who has been hit with shrapnel from a frag grenade??

excellent conditions in retirement? which force are we talking about here?

I always suspected you were an idiot. You just confirmed it.

ant 3:28 pm 21 Aug 08

That was my experience too, PeraPHon. Made umpteen phone calls, and was quite amazed. Closed books everywhere. The one I ended up getting was the best Dr I’ve ever encountered, and luckily for me, she was between health services and had vacancies on her schedule. But it was pretty amazing.

One thing, of course, to remember is that despite there being a “General” in the title of GP, GPs are specialists. Long years of training, followed by more training.

PeraPHon 2:22 pm 21 Aug 08

ant said :

Getting in to see a GP as a new patient here in Canberra is very hard.

Yup I can vouch for this one too. As a _reasonably_ recent arrival, trying to find a GP with open books was a nightmare. I sent a bulk email to friends asking which GPs they use, and some phone calls and much angst later I finally found a doctor.

The number of times I got “have you been to see Dr Whatever before?” “No” “Sorry” was just astonishing.

peterh 10:46 am 20 Aug 08

Thumper said :

I think the more germane point is that the Defence Force poach some Canberra-based doctors by offering pretty nice pacakages – superannuation etc

Yes it does happen. But they still undergo basic military training so that in the case of the shirt hitting the fan, they are tooled up to fight.

And what is the problem with this? If the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement, why shouldn’t they take it?

Having said that, I would guess the amount of doctors we are talking about here is very small.

sorry, the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement?? what about working on a messed up soldier who has been hit with shrapnel from a frag grenade??

excellent conditions in retirement? which force are we talking about here?

Army: They are trained to fight, because they do. doctor or grunt, they all end up in the thick of it.

Navy: same deal. if a ship is under aerial attack, the doctor may well be the one to step up and take on the cannon duty. Sub doctors can assist with all facets of the normal operation of a sub.

Airforce: small misconception re the RAAF, not everyone flies into battle. there are ground troops, and maintenance personnel. The doctors (sorry medics) are in each sector of the RAAF environment.

most of the doctors poached by the ADF go in as civvies, not as regs.

and they make far more money in private practice than they do in the ADF.

Thumper 8:17 am 20 Aug 08

I think the more germane point is that the Defence Force poach some Canberra-based doctors by offering pretty nice pacakages – superannuation etc

Yes it does happen. But they still undergo basic military training so that in the case of the shirt hitting the fan, they are tooled up to fight.

And what is the problem with this? If the ADF offers them good money, good lifestyle, a chance to serve OS and excellent conditions in retirement, why shouldn’t they take it?

Having said that, I would guess the amount of doctors we are talking about here is very small.

Overheard 12:39 am 20 Aug 08

BerraBoy68 said :

Overheard said :

** Can I stress that with one very notable exception (and he’s not related to this case), every medical person, specialist, oncology doctor/nurse I’ve ever had any dealings with has been an absolute champion. **

Similar experience but without any exceptions in my case.

The exception was very notable at the time, and if I ever run into this *****, I fear what my reaction might be. I nearly decked the ******. No names, no pack drill. But some time later, my brother’s widow was very philosophical* about the whole thing and summed it up this way, which has become a much-used saying of mine: ‘It’s karma; he’ll come back in the next life as a centipede with a limp’.

* I so needed dictionary.com to check that one. Long day, long night, many beers.

teepee 11:04 pm 19 Aug 08

Sepi is right. In our lifetime there could be some pretty serious deterioration in access and quality of assessments (because of the sausage-factory model by some GP surgeries), ironically despite improving science, technology and training.

The one silver lining is that a lot of med schools were established in the last decade and the benefits of that will start to flow soon.

sepi 11:00 pm 19 Aug 08

An article in the paper by a local doctor also pointed out that the more the ‘sit and wait’ Medical Centres take over all the ‘easy 5 minute dr certificate for work/antibiotics’ appointments, this just leaves the complex work for the already too busy GPs.

So the poor GPs are left trying to see all the nervous pregnant girls, the oldies with cancer/other ongoing illnesses and the mentally fragile.

The system is on the edge of breakdown I reckon.

swamiOFswank 10:50 pm 19 Aug 08

Okay…to all of those who say ‘there is no crisis here’…

On 12 August I called my GP to make an appointment. The only one available was on 22 August.

I’ve twice been to the medical certificate centre at Belconnen, queued up with all of the other germ-ridden folks and been prescribed antibios for what ailed me. I’m glad they’re there – I needed to see someone.

What I want though, is to be able to see my own GP when I’m sick, not have to see some random at the medical certificate centre. I want health care that documents and records my history and takes into account my overall health picture.

I don’t want a 5 minute walk-in with some random who doesn’t give a shit. Is it too much to ask?

I feel as though I’m living in a third world country, having to wait 10 days to see my usual family doctor.

teepee 10:46 pm 19 Aug 08

The airforce analogy is interesting. I think the more germane point is that the Defence Force poach some Canberra-based doctors by offering pretty nice pacakages – superannuation etc. I don’t blame the GPs really. Presumably they get a fancy officer rank equivalence too.

BerraBoy68 10:20 pm 19 Aug 08

Overheard said :

** Can I stress that with one very notable exception (and he’s not related to this case), every medical person, specialist, oncology doctor/nurse I’ve ever had any dealings with has been an absolute champion. **

Similar experience but without any exceptions in my case. My dad died of cancer/brain tumor 3 years ago this week.. He wanted to die at home so me and my brother spent 12 hour shifts injecting him with morphene to keep him comfortable. The community services staff were excellent to deal with and they turned up on time each day to bath my dad, do medical procedures etc.. when he passed away the GP was also there within 20 min’s to make out a cietificate. They made a difficult time less difficult.

On a happier note, whenever my kids get sick at night now I take them to CALMS at Canberra hospital. There’s no waiting in queue’s at Emergency and we’re typically back home within an hour. The GPs that work at CALMS are absolute GOLD and great with kids. They often give out free antibiotics too!

ant 10:03 pm 19 Aug 08

Getting in to see a GP as a new patient here in Canberra is very hard. Our GP in Fyshwick retired some years back, and when I had a nasty emergency (torn achilles tendon) I discovered we had a health system that was all closed down. Oddly enough, I found a GP new to town still taking patients who as luck would have it, was a fantastic GP. She’s moved to Canberra Uni now but I can still see her.

Our system is overloaded. We have (we meaning all of us, not just Canberra) a desperate need for GPs, hospital doctors, specialists, that can only be met from overseas. So we’re bleeding third world countries of their doctors to feed our need. Anyone who’s visited a hospital in the region in past years knows this. It’s quite immoral. We need to train more doctors. More than we’re training now.

As the economists urge us to breed and increase, it means strain on all the things we’re experiencing shortage of: housing, water, food, space, doctors, roads, petrol, etc, etc, etcetera.

Sleaz274 10:02 pm 19 Aug 08

Wouldn’t it be a nice world where instead of spending $12b on 100 brand new jets for our airforce to look good in while still basically being the transport arm of the army that we actually spent $12b on health and gave australians free universal health care and cheap medication subsidised by the taxpayer. $12b is $600 roughly per person in australia for those interested. Maybe we could give nurses their much needed payrises which they fight tooth and nail for. Imagine the actual benefit to hundreds of thousands of australians… (cue The Beatles hahahhaha)

Yeah it would be a nice world.

Here’s my prediction those jets will never be used ever in a major conflict in fact they will just depreciate and cost us an ever increasing amount to support.

Maybe I’m just a dreamer… I tell you what though like Granny said it’s great to be young and fit…touch wood

Granny 8:51 pm 19 Aug 08

sepi said :

We are the youngest and wealthiest society in Australia – that probably has more to do with our life expectancy than our superb health system.

Agreed, and also more aware of health and fitness than in many other places.

sepi 8:05 pm 19 Aug 08

We are the youngest and wealthiest society in Australia – that probably has more to do with our life expectancy than our superb health system.

Woody Mann-Caruso 7:13 pm 19 Aug 08

WMC I am not the only person having this difficulty

The system can’t please all of the people all of the time, but it seems to be pleasing most of them most of the time (hence us having the healthiest population in Australia), and that’s good enough for me.

Population – Townsville – 143,000, Canberra, 340,000. Why make that comparison?

Because we’re both large regional centres built around administration and defence? To draw a contrast between towns with low hundreds of thousands of people and services available in cities with close to two million (Brisbane) or over four million (Sydney) people? I could’ve said Woollongong / Newcastle, the Gold / Sunshine Coasts or Geelong but they’re all right next door to a city with millions of people. Townsville is the next largest city with a comparable population that isn’t on the doorstep on a state capital.

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