As I See It

 – Maida Lilley


Friends tell me how lucky I am with a bus stop right at my door – just 12-15 minutes from the CBD.


No. As one ages, it is wise to choose to live within reach of needed services in a community where you are known, comfortable and happy.

Today when I caught the bus to the city to meet the 3 Spring Hill loop bus up to Wickham Terrace – that row of buildings full of medical specialist rooms – up on the hill overlooking Brisbane’s city centre, I was greeted by my local Senator, Claire Moore, on her way to her local office.

“You’re out early”, she said.

“My hearing aids are playing up. I need to have them checked” I replied.

Claire is Leader of Opposition Business in the Federal Senate but she presents as down-to-earth, well aware of her constituents needs and concerns, a good listener and just plain friendly. A vital part of our vibrant community. Claire and I indulged in what felt like a modern equivalent of a chat over the garden fence, after the usual “how are you.”  I voiced a concern about the huge out of pocket costs those of us with so called private health cover face. I told Claire I had had top health cover since my first pay check in January, 1953. As she left the bus she smiled wryly and called “you should get a decent rebate for such a long time, bye.”

This is the real position.

Sadly, I am anticipating a flood of accounts as, even when armed with two doctors letters’ and after arriving by ambulance straight from a regular checkup at my GP’s surgery, I was in the EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT of a nearby, not for profit, church run private hospital. I was put straight into a private room in emergency, had a hospital bracelet fitted with my full name and DOB, my blood pressure measured and blood taken, temperature and air intake measured and even a cannula inserted in my arm by a final year student. She then asked if she might take my medical details although I had already filled in the hospital form myself. Fortunately I had my latest annual Health Care Plan with me so that filled the bill and reduced the waiting time.

Everyone in emergency was friendly and chatty as we found that my former treating neurologist no longer had visiting rights at the hospital. We guessed he was semi-retired so a new specialist had to be found for me as per my GP’s letter. That done, I was sent to the bowels of the hospital for a CAT scan. By chance, as I waited in the corridor, the eminent neurosurgeon who had treated me for twenty plus years waved and smiled at me as he sped past. I saw him there again after the test so of course I said good afternoon. I asked him about the neurologist mentioned earlier and his reply was ‘he’s still about somewhere.’ I was then returned to emergency where the doctor in charge spoke to me and I told him that my former neurologist was still around.  He looked at me with disbelief and said ‘you’ve spoken to him here … here in this hospital?’’

As I settled back in my room, I said to the nurse ‘’I’d kill for a cuppa’’ and to my delight he asked if I would like some sandwiches. A tasty pack was brought in and upon my examination of the contents I noted they were freshly, hand packed in Victoria.

Now here comes the rub. A woman with a clipboard arrived and said ‘’I need your credit card.”

“Pardon” I said.

“You do have a credit card?”” she bristled.

“Yes, of course” I stammered, pointing to my handbag on the chair. Rightly I hesitated to hand over a credit card to someone when I was not going to be there personally to use it. Her insistent look brooked no refusal.

She then started her set speech “the charge here is $220 – not recoverable from your private health fund. “Then there is the charge of $450 for the CAT scan you had”. “You will probably get some of that back from Medicare”. “Sign here.” Thus ended a very brisk exchange of a fortnight’s age pension.

Feebly I said “I don’t know why I have been in top cover private health since 1953.

It now costs me over $7 a day even though I qualify for the largest rebate due to my advanced age but there is no cover when your GP sends you straight to hospital from her surgery.” Reluctantly I handed over my credit card as a wheel chair arrived to take me up to the fifth floor and a private ensuite room in the ward. This was five hours after I had left my GP’s surgery.

As my quietly spoken nurse introduced herself, she said sweetly ‘is there anything I can do for you?’’ I asked if she had milo. She replied ‘’and a couple of biscuits too?” After enjoying my supper I unpacked the bag that my cousin had kindly packed for me and I had a shower and went to bed.

Next day – test, test, test, test!

So, after 62 years of contributing to top level private health cover, you are still expected to put your hand in your pocket to pay over and above the significant contributions you have made over your lifetime. This could happen to you!