Monday, June 1, 2015

Save our hospital! (And lady surgery)

This time last week I was recovering in hospital from surgery to the rather delicate lady part areas.
It's a road I've been down before, and I'm sure every woman reading this will wince as they are reading it.
I love my children. They are a blessing and I would never go back in time and not have them.
But I am one of those women that pregnancy never agreed with.
I did not glow.
I got hideously sick. I put on far too much weight. My pelvis moved too much. I suffered terrible hormonal migraines. I bled. My ankles, feet and fingers swelled. My blood pressure got dangerously high. My yet-to-be diagnosed arthritis flared up. I suffered from a condition called symphasis pubis dysfunction, which is incredibly painful. I was exhausted. Towards the end of my pregnancies, I resembled a bowling ball on legs.
Childbirth and pregnancy took a fair toll on my body, and down the track I'm still suffering the consequences.
I've had several surgeries since, and I guess the latest won't be the last.
Late last year, I started experiencing some painful and embarrassing symptoms, and although I've been complaining regularly to my GP ever since - to the extent of actually asking for a referral to see my gynaecologist - she fobbed me off, telling me it's to be expected at my age (I'm 47, thanks for asking).
This is despite my history, the fact that I have a mirena (so shouldn't be experiencing any abnormal bleeding at all - one of my symptoms), that my blood tests show I'm not menopausal (ditto), and that women generally know their own bodies. Plus, if I want to see my gynaecologist, I probably should have the right to see him, don't you think? Particularly as I pay for the pleasure, and it's not exactly a fun day out.

Anyway, as it happened, I had to go to Brisbane for a check-up on some of his previous handiwork the week previously. This was technically with the lady from the company who supplies the neurostimulation pacemaker that now sits in my sacrum. The pacemaker does the work that the nerves that have been damaged by my arthritis should be doing to ensure my pelvic floor works properly.
My gynae, Dr Philip Hall, inserted this, so he was part of the consultation. As I went to leave, I mentioned I'd been asking to come back to see him, and he immediately asked what had been going on. I was extremely lucky that he was concerned enough to fit me in and take a look immediately.
Without going into the gory details, there was something that was going on that shouldn't have been. He scheduled me for surgery a few days later.
And here's the thing: I was able to have this surgery done in my own home town.
If you follow MIA, you'll know I made the tree change to Kingaroy, a rural community in the South Burnett, just on two years ago now.
We're starved for good medical care here. In fact, it took me months to just get into a decent medical centre which was taking new patients.
Dr Hall is one of the great specialists who visits regularly to bring his expertise to patients in the area. For now, he's still able to operate at the South Burnett Private Hospital. (I couldn't have had my procedure done at the local public hospital, because it's not available there. Neither is an appointment with a visiting gynaecologist currently).
But our local private hospital is in danger of closing at the end of the month.
A lot of residents don't care, because they think only 'rich' patients, with private health cover can afford to go there.
But they forget about the old people, the disabled, the vulnerable. Those who can't drive to Brisbane, Toowoomba or the Sunshine Coast for their surgeries or their consultations with specialists.
There is one bus to Brisbane from Kingaroy that goes as far as Caboolture. It runs once daily, from Monday to Friday. You then have to take a train to the city and get to the nearest hospital or doctor's surgery as best you can. It's not cheap, and it's not practical for most old and frail folk.
Those who need drivers depend on people having to take time off work, often from their own businesses, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Factor in overnight accommodation - sometimes longer - and you're screwed.
It's a false economy.
There is a Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme, but the forms are difficult to fill out, and even some specialists (and their staff) have difficulty doing so. Sometimes medical staff lose them and there is no backdating. Sometimes the authorities will not approve accommodation even if the doctor has requested that it is required. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get funding approved, and it's just a splash in the ocean towards the cost of travelling to the city for medical care anyway.
The people who will suffer the most are the old folk who now will have to travel to get their cataracts done, the blokes with incontinence issues, the women who will have to wait to get their prolapses fixed. But no one seems to care about them.
Currently, the private hospital's services includes (apart from gynaecology and incontinence):  general surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, urologist, ophthalmologist, maxillofacial surgeon, dentist, cardiologist, paediatrician, hearing specialist, resting echo cardiograms, stress testing plus medical admissions.
What's going to happen to all those patients if these specialists stop coming to our area? Where are these specialists going to operate if the hospital closes?
I wrote about my stay here;
Do you live in a rural area? How do you cope when it comes to getting good quality medical care?
And have your instincts ever been right when it comes to your own health?

My room at the South Burnett Private Hospital. Not quite as posh as a city hospital, but it was a private room (shared bathroom), and the whole surgical procedure was far more comfortable and more personalised than the one-size-fits-all affairs I normally experience in the city. 

Waiting for my surgery in a private room. It was comfortable compared to what I'm used to at busy city hospitals, where you have no privacy and little dignity at all. I even had a nurse who helped me get dressed and into those unappealing white socks - and who helped me get changed later.

The after-surgery snack was pretty unappetising 

But after all that fasting, that night's dinner - chicken soup, vol-u-vent, salad and a cup of tea - was lovely. 

The worst shock to the system was that this is what passed for coffee the next morning - but I've experienced that in the city too. And seriously, that's when you know it's time to go home. 



Fabulousandfunlife said...

Your gynaecologist sounds wonderful and caring! If only all GPs could be equally as caring and concerned when potential issues are raised and attention is sought!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wishing you a speedy recovery Bronnie! It sounds like you were well taken care of which is so important when you are vulnerable in a hospital.

Char said...

That's an issue that those of us in the city don't often think about. And it's such an important one. What happens for emergency stuff? Are patients flown or driven down to bigger centres? And let's face it - there are lots of issues in the bigger hospitals too.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone. Yes, Dr Hall is a wonderful gynaecologist and a very caring medical professional. We are lucky he visits the country areas, and in fact, he travels all over Australia as he is passionate about bringing the best medical care to women, regardless of where they live. Interestingly, he also treats men as well, as another of the fields he works in is incontinence and fertility/infertility - so men will miss out if specialists like Dr Hall stop operating here. At this stage, he still intends to travel here from the city to consult even if the hospital closes, but it would be a crying shame to see a perfectly good operating theatre go to waste and deteriorate - not to mention the other facilities, and more importantly, the staff who work there. Most of whom, do not want to have to leave the region where they have built their lives. Char, we do have a public hospital for emergencies. If it's not equipped to deal with the emergency, patients are either flown to the nearest hospital able to help them or they are transported by ambulance - depending on the seriousness of the emergency. The private hospital does not deal with emergencies at this stage, which is another controversial reason why it has not been utilised as it should have been. It's been Queensland Health and Queensland Ambulance Service policy for patients to be transported to the public hospital first. Often they remain there, or they have to make their own way to the private hospital if they want to go private. You can call your own doctor to admit you to the private hospital (but not all GPs have admitting rights), but in an emergency, that's not feasible. It has all been very political and I don't think people realise what a massive loss this will be to our community.

Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid said...

Doctor Hall sounds like a gem. It seems so unfair - health care should be equal for everyone no matter where they live. Hope you're on the mend and recovering well. Thanks for linking up to the Ultimate Rabbit Hole.

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

I'm glad you got the lady bits serviced. Rural and regional areas across Australia suffer so much.
Hope your recovery is swift.
The Government should surely offer incentives , it would ease the pressure on over worked city hospitals too.

Unknown said...

Oh gosh. I can so relate to this being born and raised in a regional town. My dad has to wait months to see a psychologist as they only travel into town 1 day per month, and even then It's pot luck who you're going to get. He hasn't been happy with how the two he's seen have treated him (they just write a script for antidepressants and get him in and out as quick as possible rather then delving deeper) but he has no choice in who he sees. Hope you are ok now!

Unknown said...

The local mayor is trying desperately to try to find a new hospital provider to take over and the council is prepared to subsidise them. It will be a major loss if this hospital goes. There are currently no full-time specialists at the public hospital - just a few visiting ones. And currently no gynaecologist. One visiting psychiatrist, one visiting paediatrician - the list goes on. Or rather, doesn't. We have two full time psychologists in the town and this area has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. It's really dire. And yes, I'm fine now thanks, and the pathology came back good, which is the main thing. x