last night was intensely bad. i had to go to an after hours GP centre, because the ribcage spasms were excruciating, and the strongest thing i had was over the counter panadol-codeine and i am throwing a codeine related tantrum due to how gross it makes my stomach feel. as well, i’m getting weird other symptoms – hot flushes, including the crawling skin sensation, and my whole body is extremely itchy. i knew the GP couldn’t do anything, but i just wanted to make sure it wasn’t an infection. all clear – at least my liver&tumours is not infected, right? a tiny silver lining.
i then got really, really upset. i just felt completely overwhelmed by the whole situation, and i just had no idea how i could cope with this going on and on and on – that this is about to be our life for the foreseeable future. and it’s the OUR thing that kills me – that i have to put my partner, my family and my friends through all of the stress and worry and terror, through babysitting me because i don’t cope too well on my own at nights. i feel cruel and sad that i have to do this to other people. it is absorbing. it is boring, when it’s the only thing on my mind, and every conversation practically makes mention of it. it’s frightening. i’m certainly not ashamed to ask for help – sometimes, it’s the best thing you can do because it allows people to actually DO something other than just worry.
Today, i continue to be upset about the two tiered health care system in Australia. please note: this is not based on our current government’s decisions regarding Medicare – it is what i have experienced as a result of the current system as it stands, and as it has stood for some time. i’m a federal public servant and i prefer to remain as a-political as possible.
i am very, very lucky. i can afford my GP – she does not bulk bill, and it’s over $50 out of pocket every time i see her. she’s good, i trust her, and without her, i don’t think i would have gotten through my bipolar diagnosis and treatment, and without her listening to me about my stupid mild nausea, i would never have had that ultrasound. i can afford my specialist. she charges $330 for each visit – of which i get $120 back from Medicare, and nothing from my private health cover. she is also a professor, a teacher, and a specialist in liver cancer – and possibly one of the best doctors for what i am dealing with on the east coast. i can afford the tests – the first two were free, as i went through the public system, but the specialists have told me that there are specific clinics i need to go to, due to their relationships to the radiologists (or radiographers? i get them confused). the radiologist i see specialises in livers. an abdominal MRI is not covered under any health insurance. not private, not public. i’ve paid over $1000 for two MRI’s. $1000 for the endoscopy. (not counting rebate). $660 for each doctors visit (minus $240 rebate) and $400 for the biopsy (not counting rebate, or the pathology bill which will be posted to me). this is in three weeks.
if i had gone through the public system, i would still be waiting for my first doctor’s appointment. i would have no choice over what doctor i would see, and if i were unemployed or under-employed, i could not afford to get those tests privately, and would need to wait weeks, rather than a day. and even then, i could not afford the out of pocket costs of those MRI’s. i have no idea in hell why an abdominal MRI is not rebatable. these two procedures allowed the doctors to, eventually, narrow down the tumours to two possible options. in a less insane case, they probably would have identified the tumour. (stupid special snowflake tumours). so it saves money. it saves ER costs to do diagnostic work that helps get earlier treatment.
if, (god forbid) it is cancer, this is literally a matter of life and death. because they are so weird, it’s likely that under a less specialised doctor, they would have been overlooked as harmless. hell, the first specialist i saw – an associate professor at the ANU – thought they were, and there was nothing to indicate that they weren’t. it was only when the MRI was odd that she referred me to someone else, as their speciality area was there.
these options should be options ALL people should have. i feel bad for the fact i have private health care, and that i am using the private system. i feel terrible that when i am hospitalised, i will be in a comfortable private room, with superior food, just because the hospital won’t cost me anything because i’ve reached my excess payment (thanks endoscopy). for some things, i think public is just as good – ie, psychiatric care in the ACT is actually better in the public system because the private psych ward is for less ‘severe’ patients – which is often really hard to judge in a psychiatric patient. i was an inpatient at a public hospital for a week and a half, and it was perfectly fine. i shared a room, but had privacy (to a degree), the nurses did rounds, and checked on every patient at regular intervals – due to the fact i was in there for a med change, i only had 30 minute check ups – more severe patients would have 10 minutes. but for this? i am glad of my private cover, and i feel absolutely rotten about it, because i don’t deserve this more than someone who is a difficult housing situation, or unable to work due to disability and thus unable to pay, or .. or any number of things.
and i know in canberra, many of the private doctors also work publicly – my psychiatrist and psychologist both do, and i know my first GI specialist does public endoscopies. but it’s a gamble. i once had an horrific, judgemental, lazy psychiatrist who failed to listen to me, and wrote a referral letter outlining serious elements of conditions she’d never mentioned to me, as well as getting my medical history wrong, repeatedly. this has lead me to write a 5 page psychiatric history cheat sheet to give to new doctors, including medications, doctors i’ve seen, diagnosis, hospitalisation, etc. fortunately it was easy enough to get a new psych, after i wrote a formal complaint (he looked like Dr Chris Bondi Vet. i called him Dr (name), Psychiatrist Vet).
i have almost rage-quit my private health cover over this. on one hand, i feel like it is partly my responsibility to take some of the load off the public system, which struggles because of (insert political opinions about how we could make medicare better which include more tax for the wealthy). on the other hand, does that just make the problem worse? but if i opt out, and go public, and sacrifice my choice of doctor, my choice of radiography clinic, my choice of hospital, in order to Make A Point which is probably not actually going to help anything, anyway? i don’t have an answer to this, but i keep my private health cover, and i try and not feel like a completely terrible person about it.