Go home and wait until we call. When? No idea

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Bob and Rhonda Collins pictured in happier times… over 29 years, Rhonda was an aqua aerobics instructor; the last 26 years of which she organised aqua classes for people with disabilities.

Reader BOB COLLINS, of Latham, shares the hospital horror show that has become reality for his ailing wife Rhonda.

IT seems that our recently re-elected Labor/Greens coalition has now decided that, in addition to pandering to ACT’s property developers and thereby trashing Canberra’s once enviable title of “Bush Capital”, it should now wrest the mantle of “the worst public health system in Australia” from Tasmania.

Anyone watching ABC24’s coverage (April 4) of the public health system in Tasmania would be appalled and saddened by the plight of so many citizens being denied the basic, timely health coverage that we have come to expect in Australia, a supposedly “first-world country”.

As a retired senior bureaucrat, now aged 73, with a middle-class upbringing, I have come to realise that people of my generation – the “ageing” population, full of baby boomers who have, apparently, collectively destroyed state and territory economies Australia wide – are now in the firing line of Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s third-world public health system.

Over some 29 years, my wife Rhonda was a fit swim teacher and aqua aerobics instructor; the last 26 years of which she organised aqua classes for people with disabilities. 

Physiotherapists would send patients to her class as part of their rehab or just to stay fit as they aged. Such was its popularity – regularly 30+ per class – that she had to split it into two sessions.

About three years ago, at 68, age-related bulging discs and general arthritis meant that Rhonda had to retire and seek treatment for an increasingly bad back problem. 

Suddenly the instructor was not even able to become a participant in her own classes! 

A couple of years of nerve injections helped but, as we found out, this was just a short-term fix; we were advised that a relatively simple operation was required. 

With no private health cover, we initially saw a neurosurgeon who only did private work, to see if we could go “private” and pay for the operation ourselves, as we did with a shoulder operation years ago.

The first bit of advice was: “Don’t even think of going private to pay for it yourselves.” Then he gave us some idea of the costs involved. So it was off to the public system and on to the waiting list.

After the mandatory wait, an appointment was made with the surgeon and surgery set down for about three months later. 

By this time, my wife’s back pain was so bad that she was barely able to walk and could not stand for more than a minute or two before her legs would collapse. This apparently qualified her as a Category 2 patient, or so we assumed!

An operation was scheduled for 10.40am on Monday, March 29. However at 10.10am, while Rhonda was being briefed by the anaesthetist, the surgeon arrived and advised that her operation was cancelled. 

Apparently there were no “post-op” beds, the hospital was full! This is apparently referred to as “bed block”.

The advice was go home and wait until we call you. When? No idea.

Unable to even walk out of the hospital, my distraught wife was in terrible pain, so we detoured to the Emergency Department (ED) and presented ourselves – this is where you find out where all of the angels and saints reside!

As the ED cannot hold patients for more than 24 hours, and a physiotherapist confirmed that she could not be released, she was taken to the Emergency Medical Unit (EMU) where we were advised that my wife would be given pain medications and sent home.

I quickly disabused them of the idea of sending her home.

I don’t think they were very impressed but I offered to “have a chat” to any senior administrator if necessary. They didn’t seem to like that idea, either.

So, knowing that I would not let her come home under any circumstances, the scramble to find a bed began and one was found and that is where Rhonda languishes today, with the only advice being that the operation could now be months away.

How our dedicated doctors, nurses and mid-level administrators make such a broken system work at all, must surely be one of the modern Wonders of the World!


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  1. Tragic! I’m still amazed that anyone could know ACT Labor’s and the Greens’ clear record on public health care and still re-elect them. Young residents who haven’t needed any yet? Public servants just passing through and therefore not invested in long-term outcomes here? I honestly don’t know.

  2. Sorry but the majority of idiotic Canberrans keep voting them in, so you get what you have I’m afraid. Labor lie every election and the sheep believe them.

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