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Manipulated waiting lists

 

The ongoing outcry about more funding desperately needed for struggling Australian hospitals may be somewhat of a red herring. 

According to a wide range of unconnected sources, waiting lists in some public hospitals are sometimes being manipulated, at the benefit of privately insured patients, and at the cost to both public patients.

This is leaving some very ill public patients missing out on essential public hospital treatments, while some private patients are receiving treatments with very little benefits.

While tax payers get the unnecessary bills.

Patients stories

It was one of those chilling conversations that you just can’t forget.

A woman in her fifties asked me about her eighty-year-old mother, a private patient from the country area, who has been diagnosed with skin cancer. 

As an ex-nurse, I frequently get asked medical/nursing/hospital style questions. What people don’t realise is that they are just using me as a sounding board, to raise issues that are ignored by the health industry. That’s fine with me. They need to talk to someone. I’m happy to listen. I just get upset at how much money is squandered on unproductive treatments, while so many patients get such a crappy service.

“Mum’s eighty-three for God’s sake. She’s still independent, but she’s frail and needs constant support. The doctors have already given her surgery and radiotherapy for the skin cancer on her arm. My sister drove her back and forth to the hospital. Mum recovered. But now they want to give her chemotherapy as well. For goodness sake. What’s wrong with these people?”

I asked what her mother’s wishes were.

“Oh mum don’t have any plans. She will just do whatever the doctors tell her. She’s that generation, you know, they never question figures of authority. Not like me, I’d be asking a million questions if I had cancer.”

I asked if the elderly lady had social support services like home help.

“God no! We live in the country. None of that is available in mum’s area. But my sister’s good, she drives mum to all her appointments. The hospital is four hours away, so it’s an eight-hour round trip, not to mention hospital waiting times. I help out when I can, I see mum every fortnight and do her cleaning. But chemo! We can’t do that. We just can’t all spend our lives driving mum around. My sister’s got her family to look after as well, no to mention working in a business…”

Then came the punch line.

“Mum’s got private health cover. She’s kept it up for years. She keeps thinking it’s the ‘right thing to do’. I think it’s just a waste of money. Is that why they keep giving her all these treatments? Are they using her to make money?”

~~~~~

Less than an hour later another woman approached me with her health problems. She was in her mid-forties, a public patient on a low income, from the western suburbs. Her skin was sallow, her speech was slow, her eyes were dull.

“I’ve got cancer… all over my body. I’ve got this new Aboriginal treatment… it’s herbal and it helps control the pain well. I don’t want all the morphine the nurses keep giving me… I want to make my own choices.”

A friend came over to support her.

“‘Isn’t she fantastic? The doctors only gave her a year to live and that was two years ago. She’s a real fighter.”

I asked where the cancer was.

“In my stomach when they found it, but now it’s in my bones, everywhere. But hey, that’s OK. I take these herbal pills and lots of vitamins. Mostly the doctor is really good. But last time I went into hospital they really stuffed me around.”

“What happened?” I asked. I already know what the answer would be. 

“My doctor said… you need to be admitted. I needed to have this procedure. An he got me in real quick to the hospital. But it turned out they were busy, and couldn’t do the test until the next day. The next thing, the nurse came over to me and said… we need to discharge you. You can’t stay overnight. We need the bed.

I told her, my doctor says I need to be here. I live over an hour away, an I’m too sick to get the bus. But the nurse says…  sorry, I’ve got orders to follow. An she walked me right out of the hospital and put me into a taxi. The taxi cost me a lot of money. An I had to turn around and get back to the same hospital the next morning. Nobody thinks about stuff like that, do they?”

No, they don’t.

~~~~~~

Feedback from people involved directly in the health industry

Wikihospitals has been advised that that that some doctors have complained about being bullied into signing up private patients up for a host of expensive treatments that aren’t strictly necessary.

Private patients are being milked for all their worth, with expensive scans, regular hospital admissions and invasive treatments

says the source.

The reason?

Public hospitals are starved of government funding, and are now chasing private health insurance fund payments. “They will doing anything to get private patients in the door, then convince them to sign over their health insurance payments.

And what happens to the public patients in public hospitals?

They are constantly put off, and told there are long waiting periods… It’s not right… But doctors are afraid to speak out. You would have your career destroyed if you spoke out about this issue.

A similar complain has come to Wikihospitals from an unrelated source.

Public hospitals have been actively poaching privately insured patients to snap up their funding source, and supplement public hospitals budgets

complained someone with ties to the private health industry.

Meanwhile, a nurse who manages the surgical waiting list at a public hospital has told Wikihospitals that she has regularly seen surgeons juggle the waiting list to favour certain patients.

Private patients are pushed up the waiting list, leaving public patients to continuously drop down.

A pattern emerges, the more you investigate this issue. One prestigious public hospital in Australia has been quoted in public documents, boasting that 80% of it’s patients have private insurance cover. That’s a strange claim for a public hospitals. Currently 50% of Australians have private cover. Australians face fines from their Government if they don’t take out private health cover but are over a set income level. 

The tax payers of Australia are entitled to ask what happened to the already gigantic 140 billion a year health budget? It appears that up to half of it, is routinely being wasted.

References

Private health insurers accused of misleading consumers about public hospitals. The Age. Julia Medew. March 2016.

© Wikihospitals 2015