Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Something about Mary, the one where the government lets you die like a dog.

As some of you may be aware I live in the Bay of Islands, I travel widely within the region and come into contact with all manner of people. Tonights post is about a lady I have met.
Mary is in her mid 70's, she is a widow and lives in Kaikohe. Mary is sick, she has all the usual symptoms of a person with heart problems, tightness in her chest, breathless and lacking any energy at all. She has a home help that pops in and a variety of other people in her life that help her get things done. Over the nine months or so that I have known her I have noticed a marked deterioration in her health and mental state. She is on multiple pills, multiple times a day and the jolly Mary I met has deteriorated into a frightened husk.

Her GP is trying to manage the situation and sent her to Whangerai to see a specialist, this took 2 months. She saw the specialist who told her she needed to be booked in for a scan. It took 3 months to get the appointment for the scan. She had the scan last week and it turns out she needs a bypass.
Whangerai don't do these so she is now on a waiting list to see a specialist in Auckland, this is expected to take another 3 months, once she has seen the specialist in Auckland she will wait another 3 months for the necessary scans to be done again. If they confirm what everybody already knows she will then go on the waiting list for a bypass operation, the waiting list is currently around 9 months.
All up that is 20 months. Mary will die before she ever gets on the operating table, and she knows it. I had a cuppa with her today and she has shrunk in a week. She has effectively been sentenced to death by our public health system.
The rational among us might say she has had a good and long life and we cannot fix everybody.

To them I would say, come up to Kaikohe and have a cuppa with Mary and tell her that her life is unimportant and she is not worth saving.

Billions of extra funding in a decade and we still cannot get the basics right.

Another friend of mine had a bypass operation in Auckland three weeks ago, 12 days after seeing the private specialist that his doctor referred him to. He has Southern Cross. The hospital he was in was half empty and apparently has extra capacity just waiting to be switched on when our new government decides to utilise all means to beat our waiting lists.
I really hope they do it soon because my friend is going to die



This is a very moving and upsetting post BB.
It clearly shows people are dying simply because of Liarbour not allowing funding to follow the patient.
Surely Northland DHB should be allowed to buy private services when it needs to.
But didn't Liarbour put an end to such practice?
Surely what matters is not who provides the service, but that it is provided.
Public health bodies might find it more cost effective to buy some healthcare when needed, if they don't have the respurces to do so themsleves.
Hopefully this government will remove the various ideological blinkers that are just killing people.

Barnsley Bill said...

I am sure they were dying before labour shat a few billion down our legs as well. The point is if we have capacity available, we should use it.


Exactly. I agree.

Heine said...

Another case of ideology over commonsense. I just hope the Nats see this and see this quickly.

I know John doesn't want to scare the centrists and lefties but he has to act quickly.

Anonymous said...

My daughter was recently referred to a hospital specialist by her family doctor. The hospital has written back saying her case has been assessed as "Moderate" so she will not be placed in a queue and her name will not be recorded by the hospital. They suggest she go back to her family doctor to discuss options for managing her condition.

In other words:
1) they are not keeping a waiting list - can't have the newspapers publishing there is a long queue, can we? - and
2) our health system refuses outright to cure her condition. "Go and get by as best you can."

Who said New Zealand is not in the third world?

We should resign from the OECD and reapply when we are truly ready to rejoin the first world.

Barnsley Bill said...

Thanks for commenting anon, I have had 6 emails this morning from people similar to you. We need a new classification for people who are not allowed on the waiting list.
"Hodgsons disappeared" has a nice ring to it.
The general tenet of their messages has been. Lucky bloody Mary, at least she is allowed onto a list.

JC said...

I do a lot of work in the volunteer health sector, and it'll be no surprise that I tell you that the volunteers are old to very old.

There are lots of 80 year olds out there running the charities, providing the caring, the entertainment and doing the fundraising.

I think we need to reassess our definitions of age and value to the community. Retirees are a huge part of the 60,000 volunteer organisations and well over a million volunteers.. Maori disproportionately so.

In 2004 volunteers did over 270 million hours and added $7 billion or 5% to our GDP (Stats NZ). I think it's fair to say the elderly are a large part of this productivity and deserve the cost of prompt (and sometimes expensive) medical attention.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that prompt medical attention in any age class of the population has a positive effect on national productivity, volunteerism and the health of our not for profit organisations.


Anonymous said...

Another aspect of these issues is the cost of private insurance.

We have found two big and challenging issues:

1. Any pre-existing condition seems to be automatically excluded when you join a private insurance scheme. In our case, two silly things happened -
a) my wife had had a hysterectomy, so the new policy specifically excluded her from having another one! and
b) we reported honestly that one of our little daughters had once had tonsillitis, so anything to do with her tonsils was automatically excluded from treatment under our policy for life.
In other words - a private insurance option cannot always be relied on as a back up alternative to the public system.

2. The policy premium rises very quickly with age, to the point that once you are over about 60 the affordability gets very difficult. That is exactly when you need, like Mary, to rely on a public system that is not really there for older people with critical conditions.
My father, an ex-serviceman who led a selfless life openly dedicated to serving his country, was badly let down by the public health system when he became ill in his 70s. Not having his contributions to his country reciprocated when he needed help upset him in his final years, and sadly contributed to his grandchildren taking a much more selfish and short term view on life.
Basically, once you are over a certain age and insurance premiums are unaffordable it seems the public health system doesn't want to know you. You become expendable unproductive units under socialism.
We had to resort to private care for him without insurance cover, at great expense to his family. That was not fair, on anybody.

One of the outcomes is that our extended family doesn't trust governments any more, and old fashioned notions of sacrifice for the good of the community can take a jump so far as we are concerned.

I think the rot began under Clark as Minister of Health, and continued under Shipley, and has never recovered. Hodgson's contribution as a vet was to dehumanise it even further.

John Key now faces a huge challenge getting people like us back on board. He has our goodwill, but ...