I've been working here just a over week, and I still can't get over how lucky "public" patients here are. I know that all medical systems have their flaws, and Australia is no exception, but compared to back home, they don't know just how fortunate they really are.
I work in a public hospital (government funded) in one of Perth's outer suburbs, a fairly small one relative to my old medical home. It's a 200 bed hospital that's just inching its way towards secondary hospital status - by Australian standards that is. We don't have an ICU and as a rule (strictly enforced) we cannot have intubated patients or toxic patients here. We don't have complete specialist cover and have to refer some of our patients to the bigger centers in Perth who need consults.
Despite this, in this little hospital, we have access to diagnostics and resources that my fellow co-residents and I would have killed for. All you have to do is order them, arrange for a schedule, and most of the time you get results within 24 to 48 hours. For blood work, you can get them as fast as half an hour. I know this must sound routine to someone who works in a first-world insititution or even a private hospital back home, but for us, it was all but a wistful dream. To top it off, puiblic patients don't have to pay a single cent.
And the drugs! All you have to do is write it in the chart, and it's all provided for. Antibiotics are given regularly, without fail. No need to run around looking for donors, worrying about where you are going to find your patient's next dose. And this covers discharge prescriptions as well. No need to wrack your brain cells and make up unconventional combinations looking for the cheapest option.
I'm often given amused smiles by my fellow residents when I'd give a delighted, "Oh, you have that (can do that/can give that) here? Wow! I've never seen that done (given to a patient) before!" Believe me, I've said it so often, it's become almost embarrassing.
On the other hand, they can't wrap their head around the idea of relatives who ambu-bag patients who cannot afford a mechanical ventilators, let alone patients who ambu-bag themselves. The concept of young patients dying simply because there are no medications to be had is unthinkable to them. And treating empirically based on a clinical diagnosis is almost akin to a joke. Yet these are realities that I and fellow doctors who work in government hospitals in the Philippines lived with every single day.
Being exposed to all this excess, I can't help but being a great deal envious in behalf of the many needy patients back home. And sad, because given the place health is given in our national budget, to have something like this back home is something of a pipe dream. As it is, the government cannot even pay trainee doctors a decent wage for service hours rendered; it is never going to have enough to cover the health expenses of even just the Filipinos who find their way into the hospitals across the country. The ever-upward spiraling prices of health care in the world makes the unlikely almost impossible.
Whenever I hear someone here griping about how lousy their health care system is, I'm always tempted to make the retort, "How about I send you to the Philippines in place of one of the patients we have in the wards?" Just a day in, and I'm sure they'll realize what we all know to be true - they're still pretty damn lucky.