A little while ago, I wrote about my experience with health care in Poland after a misadventure with my toe nail. Since then, I've had a brush with health care in Australia as well (I'm not sure why I keep having health problems in different countries, but at least it gives me some blog fodder). Now you might be thinking that as an English-speaking and developed country, health care in Australia might not be all that exciting. What makes this experience interesting though is that I was in rural Australia a solid 4 hours to a major metropolis (in this case Brisbane). To set the stage, I'm out here living on my boyfriend's family's 4,500 acre farm for awhile. Out here, most people have sheep and cattle, and everyone has their own chickens wandering around (with a lifetime supply of eggs). Seeing kangaroos and wallabies hopping around is a normal sight, and rain is a luxury and probably the most frequent topic of conversation. In the morning, you wake up to dead silence other than the birds, including the occasional kookaburra the highway is too far away to be heard. Coming from my 10th floor apartment in Toronto, it's been, needless to say, quite the change. So here I am, out in rural Australia, when I wake up one morning with a high fever and a really nasty sore throat.
After deciding that I probably need some antibiotics, or at least some painkillers for the throat, we head out to the hospital in Glen Innes the nearest large town, featuring maybe 5,000 people. It's about a 40 minute drive. In the waiting room, everyone knows each other, and I'm introduced to multiple people. A lot of us are obviously not in the best shape at this introduction, and I have the fleeting thought that this must be unpleasant if you were there for something more embarrassing than a throat infection. After a short wait, the nurse checks me out and determines that indeed, my fever is high and my throat does not look very good. I'm sent back to the waiting room.
After another 10 minutes or so, the nurse comes out and tells us that the doctor on call is currently at the surgery clinic, which is just 10 minutes away from the hospital. She suggests that we go there and he can fit me in, rather than waiting for a couple hours until he returns to the hospital. Hey, I'm all for that.
We get to the surgery clinic, where I am again introduced to more people, including the lady who checks me in. I see a sign that the endovascular surgeon is in every third Monday evidently getting the care you need out here takes a bit more planning. Eventually I am ushered in to see the doctor. He looks about as surprised to have a Canadian patient as I am to have an Indian doctor as you can imagine, there's not a huge immigrant population out here. In fact, he asks me more questions about Canada than about my throat, and then just takes a quick look before prescribing me a battery of antibiotics and painkillers.
One of the more interesting parts of this experience was that no one at the pharmacy or hospital or clinic really knew what to do with me after I said that I didn't have a Medicare card, I was Canadian. The poor girl at the pharmacy even had to go check with her manager. In Australia, the health care system has public funding (and also strong private sector involvement), and everyone living in Australia should have one. Again, not a lot of non-Australians out here it wasn't as easy as just handing over my cash.
Anyway, my experience with health care in Australia wasn't nearly as exciting (or terrifying) as my experience in Poland. Overall, I was seen quickly, dealt with professionally, and the whole experience only cost about 90 CAD granted, we did have to drive for awhile. At least now I'll know what I'm dealing with if one of these poisonous spiders or snakes oh yes, they are definitely around here manages to get me.