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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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39 Responses to
Stories related to the current health crisis in Canberra
RuffnReady 2:53 pm 19 Aug 08

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

Is more money for health the answer? Or is it a lack of supply of staff and facilities? From what little I know we need to make nursing more attractive for young people, and train more doctors (this has already started, but it the greater numbers won’t feed into the system for another 5 years).

sepi 2:44 pm 19 Aug 08

I believe ACT healthcare is in crisis.

We have the second least number of GPs per capita in the entire nation.

We have the lowest amount of bulk billing doctors in the country.

Paediatric services are so unavailable patients are advised to try Goulburn, or other small rural towns.

Our only private hospitals are run by religious groups.

Our hospitals are under funded and understaffed.

We have an aging population.

It is increasingly difficult to get into a GP – each person’s story is just an anecdote, but added togather the picture is grim. We rang on Monday for an appointment, and got one on Thursday – is it hopeless.

Woody Mann-Caruso 2:09 pm 19 Aug 08

You not being able to see a particular GP at ‘a moment’s notice’ is not the same as ‘problems with the health system’. Further, I doubt many population centres with fewer than a half million people have a paediatric neurosurgeon. The fact that we live near the National Library doesn’t change the fact that we’re about the same size as Townsville. Mental health facilities, the treatment of juvenilles in adult facilities (and even aged care facilities) is not a new or local issue.

This comes across as you having a bit of a tanty about one appointment for one person with one GP and looking for support by claiming the entire system is somehow in crisis.

dodgybranchopolous 1:25 pm 19 Aug 08

“If I was ever going to get into pollitics (no way I would now!) I would strongly advocate for health to be a top priority.”

I’m no Stanhope lover, but it should be noted that:

1. They put an extra $300 million into health in the latest budget;
2. ACT has the highest life expectancy in Australia and one of the highest of any city in the world.
3. The allocation of GPs is a federal, not local matter.

scootergal 1:08 pm 19 Aug 08

dodgybranchopolous said :

I was sorry to read about your experiences Scootergal, but I was a bit surprised. I’ve recently moved back to Canberra after 9 years in QLD and have found the ACT Health system to be far, far better than that of QLD, or Sydney and Adelaide for that matter.

I haven’t been in Queensland’s health system for five years, and I know since Anna Bligh coming into power, there has been issues, and scandals.

The Royal Brisbane Hospital is the biggest hospital in the southern hemisphere, where as Canberra is so small by comparison. When visiting GP’s up there, I’d get straight in, they were extremely proactive with me and I actually had a ‘team’, who were interested in assisting me with my health issues. I haven’t has that experience here.

It is more upsetting to know that my friend’s son gets such little asistance. My friend is exhausted trying to sort out both his issues, and dealing with her husband, who has just recently been diagnosed as having a disability due to his brain injury.

If I was ever going to get into pollitics (no way I would now!) I would strongly advocate for health to be a top priority.

Overheard 1:06 pm 19 Aug 08

Overheard said :

My father was a relatively healthy 77 year-old when in December 2007…

Sigh! Another time-travelling story. Make that: ‘My father was a relatively healthy 77 year-old when in December 2005…’

Overheard 12:51 pm 19 Aug 08

I don’t have any first-hand experience of cancer treatment services in the ACT at the current time, but for the sake of anyone currently requiring treatment, I hope we never see a repeat of the situation from about 2-2.5 years ago that resulted in so much upheaval for so many.

My father was a relatively healthy 77 year-old when in December 2007, a minor procedure later revealed that he had oesophogeal cancer, and soon afterwards, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As the ACT’s radiotherapy machine had broken and was taking some months to repair or replace, he had to up stumps with my mother (who requires 24-hour care) and relocate to Sydney for a number of months in mid 2006. Luckily, they were able to rely on a good family support network in Sydney, but that was purely good luck and partly reflective of the fact that they both previously lived in Sydney.

Dad always said there was only one way they’d get him out of his beloved inner north Canberra house: in a box. He was almost correct. After six weeks of treatment (including his first ever overnight stay in a hospital (Westmead)), he was discharged to a nearby nursing home and lasted another three weeks.

He died at the age of 78 on 19 August 2006.

** 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. **

dodgybranchopolous 12:33 pm 19 Aug 08

^ Although I should mention that I’ve not had to see any specialists apart from a neurologist, whom i had to wait 3 weeks to see. That was annoying (and expensive!), but not entirely unreasonable IMO.

dodgybranchopolous 12:28 pm 19 Aug 08

I was sorry to read about your experiences Scootergal, but I was a bit surprised. I’ve recently moved back to Canberra after 9 years in QLD and have found the ACT Health system to be far, far better than that of QLD, or Sydney and Adelaide for that matter.

madocci 12:15 pm 19 Aug 08

Thinking about it logically, it would end up costing the health system and other systems more if developmental delays in kids could have been avoided by faster treatment.

madocci 12:02 pm 19 Aug 08

Oops meant to hit preview. Excuse the spelling and lack of formatting. This is how it should read:

Ant – thanks for the tip, Ill try and get someone via the two other specialist I need to go there to see.

As for your claim that your kids take precedence over adults: no, they do not.
Not “my kids”, kids in general. A certain amount of service set aside for kids, so adults and kids are not competing against each other for services. Effectively two separate lines. IMO kids should have access to health services of equal standard irrespective of where they live. Adults can travel, kids dont have a choice.

madocci 11:59 am 19 Aug 08

Ant – thanks for the tip, Ill try and get someone via the two other specialist I need to go there to see.
As for your claim that your kids take precedence over adults: no, they do not.
Not “my kids”, kids in general. A certain amount of service set aside for kids, so adults and kids are not competing against each other for services. Effectively two separate lines. IMO kids should have access to helath services of equal standard irresepective of where they live. Adults can travel, kids dont have a choice.

ant 11:47 am 19 Aug 08

madocci, yes we do have a desperate shortage of dermatologists in Canberra. I saw a local one yesterday for the first time. However! After encountering the waiting lists a few years back, I scouted around. SW Sydney (Campbelltown) has several with a few days waiting time. I opted for one in Bowral, however, as it’s closer. If you go to the Dermatologists official website, you’ll see them all listed there. I hope that helps.

As for your claim that your kids take precedence over adults: no, they do not.

madocci 11:32 am 19 Aug 08

In my experience, any health care in relation to children is absolutely appalling. The lack of paediatric specialists as well as the horrendously long list to see a normal specialist mean that I do not even bother trying to get into anyone in Canberra anymore, i go straight to Sydney. I had a referral for a dermatologist yesterday, but was told the wait would be six months long at least for my 3 year old. Best off going to Sydney, but I need to find someone myself and get an open referral cause there’s no easy way for a GP to find a specialist in Sydney. Couple that with the fact that it is almost impossible to get into a GP when you need to and you have a difficult time if you have a sick kid. I wrote on this subject earlier. I would be keen to see some good policy thinking in this area to overcome some of the issues that Canberra presents due to its size and population.

I often think maybe there should be pools of the services that are set aside for kids as a priority, I mean adults I think should take second place after kids. The number of times I have been in a waiting room and waited behind the line of old people to get treatment for my child is unbelievable. With an aging population putting strain on the health system I can only think it will get worse over time. Take a look into any Medicare office, private health shopfront, medical centre or pharmacy and there they all are, lined up with plenty of time to fill waiting for subsidised medical treatment!

Harsh I know, but fair I think!

peterh 11:24 am 19 Aug 08

I have a condition that requires expensive treatment through a product that is in short supply in australia, and can be donated. It can also be purchased in the states, and as a result, I have purchased significant quantities, at a great cost to me. This is a required substance for me. It isn’t illegal, and there are cheaper alternative versions of it, but I have shown a reaction to these alternatives.

I have had recent jabs of this substance, and am now due for some more. I will wait patiently for a doctor to administer the jab, as the treatment rooms are just too long a wait.

what I feel is the inherent problem with the Australian health industry is that there is not enough emphasis for kids to become nurses, doctors or specialists. perhaps the problems of funding can be sorted by the next generation, if there are more health workers pushing back on the government, they might start to take notice and act.

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