Saturday, 24 January 2009

Happy Australia Day Weekend

One of the key differences between science and the various forms of pseudoscience (including the various religions of this world) is that science delivers.
When Dylan had himself an asthma attack and was ambulanced to an emergency room yesterday morning I wasn't feeling particularly worried. I was quite impressed by the professionalism on display by the various people attending to him, including the ambulance crew paramedics and the doctors and nurses at the hospital. They weren't only professional, they were also so stupidly nice to Dylan and to us it felt like we're out with friends; so nice I couldn't avoid noticing one of them looked so much like my friend Levana I kept thinking I was in Israel again, while another - an Everton supporting Brit - was talking in the exact same accent and rhythm as my sister in law.
The second reason for my lack of worrying was, as I said, science's ability to deliver. Dylan was out of breath, but we didn't have to put our faith in some elusive force. We could have prayed in an easterly direction, either to Mecca or Jerusalem; we could have rushed for a confession or cross our fingers. Instead we opted for a small shot of Ventolin that did a very fine job mitigating Dylan's alarming condition, thank you very much.
Science delivers.

The same cannot be said so conclusively about the Australian health system.
We pay good money for a top notch private health insurance scheme, yet when the time came for us to attend to this emergency we had to go to a public hospital. Not that I mind; I'm of the view that the words "private" and "health" should never go together, but given the way things are in Australia and the way the legislation effectively forces you to take private cover I don't really have a choice. Yet when push comes to shove and an emergency beckons, public hospitals are the way to go: private ones do not have emergency rooms, at least not ones that can cater for a variety of specialties as in the case of dealing with babies.
The thing about public hospitals is that, well, they're public. You get to meet common people there. You get to share a room with them! Circumstances don't allow for much privacy in the room, so now I can tell you all about the mother of the baby girl with whom we've shared a room and her troubled relationship with the girl's father. I can also tell you about the obvious negative effect this has on the girl, and how this two to three year old manipulates her now separate parents to get her own way. And I can tell you I had to listen to all of these because with the urgent circumstances that found us at the hospital I didn't have anything to read with me. Never leave the house without a good book, I say!
There are other quirks to public hospitals. Take their desperation for extra cash as an example: They stoop so low you need to pay $10 a day for them to activate the 14" old TVs on top of your hospital bed. They stoop so low your food has to be ordered a day in advance, thus forcing Dylan to eat the food that was ordered for his bed by its previous tenant the day before (and forcing the bed's next tenant to eat tomorrow what we considered best for Dylan). Not to mention the way they rip you off at their parking lot (sending me to comfortably park on a side street).
The worst thing about the experience is the general crappy feeling you get at the hospital, especially with the prospect of staying over for a night with your baby: the facilities are quite crappy, reminding me of how it felt like to stay over at my base for the night during my army service, sleeping on the floor and fighting for some food scraps.
Things shouldn't be this way, you know. Many if not most of us will spend the last days of our lives at a public hospital, so why shouldn't we ensure that our stay there is a pleasant one?
If the entire stupid concept of private health was abolished and all the money pouring into them was directed to public health instead, we would all get better service. For a start, we wouldn't be financing some greedy gits' inflated salaries and we wouldn't be financing private health companies' competitive marketing campaigns. And second, we won't be spending hundreds of millions of government dollars to support what should be a fully private enterprise to begin with.
Who am I kidding? This will never happen, with all the influential private health stakeholders having so much to lose from such a proposition and not with a Labor government led by Kevin-oh-five-percent that is so afraid of innovation.
Till then, my admiration will go to all those who helped us and are continuously laboring to help many others under rough conditions and with low pay. And mostly I will admire Jo, who stayed with Dylan last night at the hospital and took care of Dylan on a night to remember.


Uri said...

I can't speak for your sister in law, but your friend Levana was very happy that even her fake presence inspires confidence and calm.
BTW, since when "feeling like you in Israel again" considered a good feeling?

Moshe Reuveni said...

Nothing bad or good was implied; just a hint at the power of the presence. Levana did get along very well and very quickly with Dylan, better than most family members.