Tuesday, 22 August 2006

The Middleman

One of the thing that frustrates me the most about my new job (new being relative now that I'm there for a few months) is that most of the time I'm just a middleman.
Somebody wants something, but doesn't know how to get it. Another guy sits somewhere in the IT department and knows how to do it but doesn't have much of an understanding on how the business works and what's required. And I'm in between.
Sounds good - a lot of people do much worse than that for a living. Take, for example, politicians. But the point of the reason why I find this annoying is that most of the time I'm adding quite a little in the way of value to the process; if only the person with the need and the person with the skills bothered to shift their behinds a bit and actually talk to one another, things would have that much better without me interfering in the middle.
I find myself acting as a middleman so much of the time that my brain just shuts down most of the time I'm at the office. The worst thing about it is that in those very rare occasions where my brain can actually contribute something to the wellbeing of someone in my organization, it is so switched off to hibernation mode there is no chance of anything positive coming out of it.
So yes: being a middleman frustrates me quite a lot.

Seeing others succumb into the middleman syndrome frustrates me just as well. Especially if these are doctors. Allow me, if I may, to explain:
The Australian system of acquiring the services of a medical specialist are, for a lack of a more suitable word, weird. While in other countries you just book yourself an appointment with a specialist, in here you need to go through your regular run of the mill GP first and try to beg them into handing you with a referral; and even if they are willing enough, you don't have much control over the specific specialist they'll appoint you to. You may end up with the Marquees de Sad if you're not careful enough.
Did you get it? You have to spend $50 or so, and lots of precious time, on seeing a doctor; and all that doctor has to do is write you a referral letter to see the doctor you should have gone to see in the first place. And then you wonder why the Australian government keeps on complaining that the cost of medical expenses is on the rise.
Middleman frustrations don't end there. On several occasions already I had a GP that just wouldn't refer me to a specialist; why do it when he/she can continue enjoying the stream of $50 notes on each of my visits? Instead, they just tell you to come and see them again, in which time they will see you as the specialist.
I've had this just a few weeks ago with my blurred vision problem: the doctor wouldn't refer me to a specialist right away, even though he admitted he could see nothing wrong with my eye (while I could see lots of wrong with it); instead I was supposed to see him again the following day, and only then he would refer me away. The fact my vision was at stake didn't matter much.
Before that I've had a skin problem that needed removing and I tried several doctors in order to get a referral to a dermatologist that would remove it. With a few GPs all I got was the usual "this is not too bad, come and see us in two weeks and then we'll see"; at the time I was naive enough to actually come back in a few weeks and see them tell me to come again in a couple of weeks. And then you get these brave soldier GPs who want to operate you on their own; thing is, I don't: I prefer to be operated on by someone who does this thing on a daily basis, not by someone who is out for a bit of an adventure and will leave me literally scarred for life.
So while I hate finding myself doing the middleman's work, it seems like a lot of Australian doctors are busy making a living out of it. At the expense of us tax payers, of course.

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