Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Yesterday I used the private healthcare system for the first time in my life, at least as far as I can recall. I might have been born in a private hospital, but that was Mum's health care, not mine.

Being a good lefty I am against private healthcare on principle. And being employed, along with my husband, in the public education system, I can't strictly afford it either - especially as, at the moment, I am unemployed.

But even if I could afford it I wouldn't. I object to the idea that a minority of people, primarily those working in the profit-focused private sector busy making money for themselves and compounding inequality for others, should get better quality and faster health care than the majority of people who can't afford private because they work in the public sector which is invariably underfunded because successive right-wing governments make it their mission to cut public funding, while being governed by motives more honourable and important to our collective social well-being than private profit - particularly as private profiteers also make it their mission not to pay their full taxes.

But when you've been bleeding for fifty days straight and the public sector wait for a scan to see if it is, or to rule out, cancer as the cause, is 16-18 weeks and the private sector can provide one without wait, after waiting six weeks over the Christmas-New Year period, during which time I almost bled to death, I decided, urged by my doctor and husband, to bite the bitter bullet and go private.

$250 later, and two days after my bleeding had finally stopped (I was taking GP-prescribed progesterone to stop it), I had my scan and my husband got his peace of mind. The results, which still have to be analysed by my GP, look good at first glance, or so the immaculately presented woman who scanned me thought.

Today, upon reflection, I feel reassured and cheated out of $250 in about equal measure. I have had the same scan in the public system some years back, in fact more than once - only women bleeeeeeeed - and can confirm that the private system is not only much faster but much better looking. Park lands surround the private healthcare facility, as opposed to an endless grey car park for the public hospital, and the waiting room is up to the minute in décor with a huge flat-screen TV, as opposed to a poky, overcrowded room and box TV that clearly hasn't been upgraded since the seventies. The clientèle differ too: white and pale Asian in the private system, every colour and creed under the sun in the public system.

So the public-private division compounds racist divisions too. If the mostly white money-makers working in the private sector paid their full taxes and that money went where it should go - into public health and education - we could have public healthcare that provided for all equally and in a little more style, not perhaps rolling park lands but a few trees and slip of green grass to soften the concrete. The waiting room TV could be only ten years old, and most importantly, the wait for treatment could be reasonable, a few weeks rather than a few months. Ideally it would be possible to have a public system that meets demand as promptly as the private system, such that there would be no need for the private.

In the meantime, I am sorry to have enabled such an unequal system. But for purposes of research, if nothing else, I suppose it was quite useful.          

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