To describe the Australian Health System as a “dog’s breakfast” is the understatement of the year. “Dysfunctional” would be more appropriate. Many patients, particularly the aged and disabled, may never receive the ultimate in health and welfare services because of a number of factors. Advocates for the aged and disabled seem to emphasise patients’ physical conditions and treatments, and funding for the continuance of the organisation, but forget that without financial security the quality of life may be less unsatisfactory.
Therefore, we have to make the best of what we have and ensure that the health cake is served equitably to all citizens.
- A truly National Health Service is vital for the wellbeing of the people, and should be patient-focussed, not provider focussed. It must be a universal service, which States and Territories must abide by – currently the service in Australia is fragmented with band aid measures being brought in by State Governments, very few of which are integrated with other States.
- The aim of any health service should be to provide an adequate service to all to ensure ongoing quality of life and equal recognition as people before the law.
- A universal system is the best type, e.g. with contributions from the Commonwealth Government, employers and the beneficiary (when the beneficiary is in employment). Special needs must also be met under a universal plan.
Many people are allergic to orthodox prescribed drugs and need alternative medicines which are not obtainable under the PBS, often making them unaffordable.
The high cost of aids for the disabled is unrealistic for most people. The cost of a tilt chair is around $3000-4000, which is totally out of reach of most people. I went to a furniture shop and have had a chair custom-built for less than a third of the price. Admittedly it does not have a tilt facility but it does have a better lift and tilt than most domestic chairs.
Similarly, special shoes may cost anything from $400-500 a pair, however several companies have brought out a range of quality shoes and boots that have extra width and depth options, which apparently range from $130 - $200. Hopefully when these reach the shops it will stop the sort of comment I received from the assistant when trying to buy shoes in a well-known department store: “We don’t cater for your sort.”
To date it has cost me something in the region of $158,000 to remain mobile and have some quality of life and the expenditure is not finished yet as other equipment and modifications to the home have to be purchased and finished.
Almost daily we hear reports of persons who have legitimate claims against various public service and private organisations for mismanagement, wrong advice, faulty medical procedures, etc. where the cost of litigation often prevents any action being taken by the patient/client. Recently there was an instance where the patient had to pay the court costs.
Immunisation is a typical example; the person is advised by the government to have, for example, an AntiFlu Injection, which results in damaging long-lasting even permanent medical problems. Apart from general practice assistance there is no support being offered by the government to ensure that the victims’ quality of life is ensured.
Goods and Services in Australia are subject to GST but there are many anomalies that need to be addressed. For example, if you are an employed disabled person you can claim refunds for necessary items such as a vehicle, modifications to the vehicle, wheelchair, scooter, and other aids to improve your quality of life. However, if you are not employed you cannot reclaim the GST. Similarly, as a volunteer if you work on a computer, a vital piece of equipment, the full sales price is paid for each item required - even though volunteers are instrumental in saving the community millions of dollars a year.
In Victoria, senior and disabled persons requiring financial aid have on average an eight-month wait before their case is even considered. One wonders whether the state government hopes that the ravages of time will overtake the application. I am fortunate to have assets from which I could draw a line of credit, others in my situation are not so lucky and what happens to them? Are they condemned to sitting at home, probably drugged so they are not a nuisance?
Lack of centralised information is an important issue. The Hi-tech info systems are often confusing for persons unfamiliar with the use of telephones and computers. To be confronted by a series of numbers is often too much for the caller with the result he/she is unable to resolve an issue of concern. Welfare workers are notorious for not returning calls. I, personally, am still waiting for a call in answer to an inquiry made eight weeks ago.
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