Blog, homeless, poverty

Social injustice in hospitals

End stage treatments in the western suburbs

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

She was in her mid-forties. 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.

Public patient with end stage cancer frog marched out of a hospital

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. This was a working class woman from the western suburbs.

“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.

The people who are always ignored

The many layers of hospital bureaucrats don’t think about it. The politicians working in State and Federal health portfolios don’t think about it. Bureaucrats in Australia’s plethora of unconnected and bloated health departments don’t think about it. And the mainstream media certainly don’t write about it.

Health is an industry that has been routinely documented as wasting billions of dollars every year. Over servicing, fraud and unnecessary tests are said to account for 30% to 40% of the USA health budget. Australian health advisors routinely write about the same problems. But their reports all fall on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, low-income people with end-stage cancer are being frog-marched out of public hospitals because they are seen as a financial ‘burden’.

At the same time expensive treatments with questionable outcomes are being pushed on to elderly, privately insured patients.

This is the real face of Australia’s fragmented, uncoordinated and increasingly ‘profit driven’ health system. Social injustice at the worst time of someone’s life. The result is bad health treatment all round.

And distressed people caught up in a bad system that is unaccountable.

© Wikihospitals 2015

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