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The other day, I booked a dental appointment. I’m in need of a routine checkup. I also need to have my caps looked at and possibly changed. Apparently smashing your front teeth out on the road after falling off a skateboard at the age of 11 can have lifelong effects. Who would have thought? So, having put it off for a while, I called my regular dental clinic, located in the HCF Health Care Centre in Chatswood. Because of their opening hours, I told the receptionist I was only able to make it on a Wednesday afternoon. She replied by informing me that the first Wednesday afternoon appointment was on the 20th of April. I thought, gosh, that’s a fair while away. Surely there’s something sooner.

Then it occurred to me. I had called one dental clinic, completely confident that an appointment would be available for me, sometime in the next month, at least. I had given one day of the week as convenient for me, and only part of that day, at that. The appointment I booked was less than 3 weeks after I made the phone call. If I had broadened my availability and called a few different clinics, I probably would have been able to make an appointment the very same day.

Such is the luxury of living in the city. I have never considered health care to be something for which I should be thankful. I simply take it for granted and actually become disgruntled if I have to wait for it. With easy access to dental health, mental health, public and private hospitals, elective surgery, extras like physiotherapy and chiropractic or even acupuncture, sometimes I feel a bit spoiled for choice. So, when I read this reply to a question I asked about satisfaction with health care, I was pretty shocked:

“There has been a shortage of doctors in Mudgee since I moved here in 2006.
Not only there is a shortage, but when you finally find one, twelve months down the track, he leaves town and you are back to square one.
Even when you have your own GP, it takes a minimum of 2 weeks to get an appointment.
There are many people in Mudgee who drive all the way to Dubbo in order to see a doctor, because they cannot wait two weeks for an appointment.
When it comes to mental health, it is even worse. And for the free dental clinic, there is a two years waiting list in order to get your first appointment.”

-PatrickG (OurPatch User)

Of course, I had an idea that the regional health care system was inferior to what we enjoy in the city. I imagined that it was a struggle, but people got by and made the most of what they had. I had no idea that such an under resourced, seemingly impossible system existed somewhere as close to me as Mudgee. The idea of waiting two years to see a dentist is completely foreign to me. I have been seeing the same doctor for as long as I can remember, and even if he did move on, I know he would have no trouble passing on my information to a new GP who would be well qualified and trained. I’m really starting to see that the same cannot be said for GP’s in regional areas.

Recently, representatives of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) sat addressed a number of Federal politicians, lobbying them about the future of rural health. The lobby group delivered the message that a significant imbalance between urban and rural health care not only exists but is being recognised by the nation as a whole. The installation of Simon Crean as Minister for Regional Australia, as well as a number of regional Australia-focused incentives, means that regional Australia is currently on the political agenda in Australia. The RDAA suggests that this provides Parliament with a rare opportunity to make changes to the state of health care in rural areas. The warning issued was clear: if the government’s policy response to the issues in regional Australia is not correct within two years, the end of regional Australian medical services would be inevitable. A “fly-in fly-out” approach would be the only solution, meaning that doctors would come to the regions when required.

Once again, I will admit that this whole thing is completely foreign to me. The idea that medical services need to be addressed by the government at a policy level is beyond my comprehension. My frustrations about health care generally consist of waiting up to an hour in the waiting room, not seeing the doctor I wanted to see and being bombarded by private health insurance commercials. I feel like such a spoiled brat.

Share your thoughts about health care in your region in the comment section below, or on the forum. Jump on Facebook to respond to the poll about health care there, too.

Published: Apr 5, 2011 11:24am by cbere.

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