Health, Hospitals and Insurance

Health, Hospitals and Insurance

I have a weird feeling right now. I think things are over. I have no outstanding needs to see a doctor. That is a pretty unfamiliar place to be in for me right now.


Health, Hospitals and Insurance


Health, Hospitals and Insurance



For three weeks, I had been at my GP weekly to get them to look at my throat. Something was going on in there. It basically looked like an infection. The thing is, post-tonsillectomy throats have wounds on them that look like pre-tonsillectomy infections, but are just part of the healing process. The first GP appointment it was decided it looked like a stitch might be in there and irritating my throat, so I was to keep up the betadine mouthwash a few times a day to prevent infection. At the second GP appointment they tried to take the stitch out, but couldn’t get to it. Then they weren’t sure it was a stitch because they couldn’t get it out. Meanwhile, my pain grew and the white stuff got bigger.


Last week I called an ENT nurse at the hospital, who said I should go see my GP and get them to call the on-call registrar and fax through a referral (or show up to emergency). So last Thursday, I went back to the GP for the third time, who agreed the thing in my throat had grown and I should go on antibiotics while I wait to see a specialist. She wrote a referral back to the ENT department but wouldn’t call the on-call registrar as I wasn’t an emergency. Which turns out (below, haha, you have to keep on reading) to be true AND untrue.


I spent last weekend in bed, deliberately resting and hoping that my body would just heal. Nope. The two white bits in my mouth grew to one giant white bit. It was rapid growth. I looked at my throat around 2pm Sunday and then again at bedtime Sunday and I could see the change in size in that time.


Monday I called the ENT clinic again to speak to a nurse. Well, kind of. Firstly, I called the outpatient clinic by accident as the hospital appeared to have changed their website so it gave me the wrong number. But that was informative (if unplanned) as they told me that I had been assessed as a category three patient. That means you clinically need to be seen in no more than 365 days. (The realistic wait list is more like 2 years in the Brisbane public hospital sector.) Yeah, that was fucking pointless. So I got myself put through to the ENT nurse, and described the white stuff growing. She told me to go to emergency. I said I felt weird doing that, as I was at work and functional. She (nicely but firmly) told me to attend emergency and not feel guilty as I was post op and needed to be seen. She also said she’d be letting the on-call ENT know that I was coming in.


And so I did. I left work and caught the bus to the emergency department. (Which still sounds like a ridiculous phrase to me.)


Thankfully being mid-morning, it seemed fairly quiet. I was seen immediately by the triage nurse, who had a quick look at my throat, and then I gave my medicare details and patient number to the admin officer.


I took a seat and waited. In a decently short amount of time (before Ben could even get from home to the hospital to wait with me), I had been taken to a special ENT room for an examination.


Emergency ENT room


The doctor who saw me agreed that it looked really odd, but that there were no immediate signs of danger (aka bleeding). I waited in the little ENT room for a short while, then she came back and told me that the senior doctor agreed I needed to be seen by an ENT and they needed to find one for me. So I was taken to the fast-track waiting room.


Fast Track Waiting Area Room


Ben arrived at the hospital while I was waiting in this room. The doctors had said they thought all the ENTs were in theater, so I knew there was going to be a wait. In the end, I was sent up to the ENT outpatients clinic, where I had been seen before and after surgery. At least I knew where it was!


I waited less than half an hour (woo) and got brought into the ENT’s office. They had a quick look, saw that it was indeed a stitch, and cut it out. There was a brief moment of “holy fuck why does it feel like he is cutting my tongue off” and then it was all out with minimal fuss. The white stuff came out with the stitch. My throat was then normal. Voila. All I needed was two minutes with someone who knew what they were doing, not weeks of GP appointments and antibiotics. 



While I’d like to acknowledge upfront that it has cost me very, very, very little to see specialists and get my tonsils removed (seriously, maybe $60 in incidental costs?), I feel a complete frustration some days when it comes to the public health system.


When I saw my GP for that third time, I agreed that I was not technically an emergency – I had no blood, pus, airway obstructions, basic stuff that I’m sure all of us unqualified patients can agree would constitute a standard emergency.



But I don’t know if she knew that putting in a standard referral meant I went to the bottom of the long pile of people in Brisbane who need to see an ENT. The referral was basically pointless. I still feel ridiculous presenting to an emergency department when I’m not an emergency. But it appears that there is no in-between. There is a years-long wait list, or there is emergency. 



One thing I’m trying to adult my way into doing is making sure I have insurances. Perhaps ironically, not health insurance, as I still see limited value in that, but the life, income and all those types of insurances. Holy hell there is so much to learn. I’m initially looking at it via my super fund. The irony is that I had to cancel an appointment to meet with them to go to emergency for my non emergency. But I have been able to reschedule so hopefully I’ll learn more about that soon. Mainly I started looking into this because I figure a tonsillectomy is about as minor of a “thing” as you can get, and it still wiped out my leave balances – so if anything more serious ever happened, I’d need income protection of a form that isn’t the measly sick allowances that welfare provide. 


Like I said 1000+ words ago, I think all of this means that I’m healthy? I’m not really sure what that feels like. I know I’m lucky that while I’ve had things that linger, in the grand scheme of health problems, they have been minor. I guess now then it’s time to start walking and maybe finding an exercise I like again.


If you have any ideas about finding an exercise to enjoy, let me know!


21 Replies to “Health, Hospitals and Insurance”

  1. I’m glad it was nothing serious. We have health insurance but just the basic so we don’t get swamped at tax time.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Same! So strange that it was weeks of “hmms” and all I needed was 2mins with a guy who knew what to do with two pairs of scissors in my mouth!

  2. Fingers crossed you will now discover what it’s like to feel healthy! I’d suggest aqua aerobics as I took it up this year and loved it. Unfortunately my body doesn’t, have struggled with recurring ear infections so have had to give it a miss for about 3 months now 🙁

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I actually looked at hydrotherapy for bursitis but everywhere seems to only run it during the day when I’m at work. Was quite bummed by that! I do have two good local pools so that is something I could look into – thanks for the suggestion. I hope you can get back to it soon 🙁

  3. Oh I hope it is over. I know this time last year you’d had one thing after another and the fact that it continued for a year must be really stressful for you.

    Until my surgery I used to go to a doctor’s rarely. I’d have to be coughing blood or something. (Or needing a script.) And I’d never stayed in hospital in my life or presented to an ED as an adult (there were 3 pesky incidents when I was a kid – 2 at school and a broken arm (the last) when I was 8) so I’ve always been pretty lucky.

    I’ve got private health cover but am so often out of pocket. I recently finally went to a physio about some shoulder and neck issues and had been meaning to go for about 6mths but put it off cos of the cost. I finally went cos my clavicle had become swollen and I couldn’t lift my arm. And though I have private cover each appt still cost me $40 each. (Although I recall being $70 out of pocket when I used to go to a physio in Brisbane city back in the day!)

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Yes, this time last year it was low iron…ugh! I still can’t really find the value in private health – I have seen dietitians, physio and podiatrists but I go to student clinics and they’re excellent quality and about $30-40 per appointment so there’s no need for the extras side. Though it might be good for dental. Ugh. So hard to work it all out.

  4. What a time it’s been….and thank goodness that stitch is out and you may resume life as normal. But wait, you are so used to having something wrong with your throat you cannot remember normal. You will. My suggestion for exercise is gentle walking by the beach. I say gentle because you have been unwell for many months and your body (and mind!) need this to start. I will be keeping an eye out for you…LOL…and I know you will for me if I start over-doing it.
    We would not be without our private health insurance nor would our adult kids. It is about choice and not having to go on waiting lists. I know it’s an expense but we (and our kids) have had it paid back to hospitals and others services much more than we have paid in. The bill for my hospital stay, theatre fees and some small fees to the doctors was over $21,000 and we had zero to pay.
    Stay well V, I hope you have a much better time ahead of you now!
    Denyse x

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      A regular commuting and work day is a good 5-6k steps for me, so if I wanted to get up to 10k it’s really just a bit more gentle walking at lunch (which is what I used to do before I was sick all the time and couldn’t spend energy that way).
      $21k for “free” certainly makes it a fantastic investment. My hesitation is that these days we need more consultations with specialists more than other stuff, and private health doesn’t seem to cover that. But I will admit I feel like I can never get a straight answer from health funds so for all I know, I’m wrong.

  5. Cant believe you had all those doc appts and antibiotics for a stitch that needed taking out!! I’m glad you’re feeling healthy again. Walking regularly I think is the cheapest and most enjoyable form of exercise for healthy living and getting in your steps each day. Also does you get to get out in the great outdoors! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Yep just a stitch! I do an ok amount of incidental exercise during the week, but I’d like to do something a bit more… I feel like all the resting I’ve done for the past year has made me feel unfit.

  6. Our medical system can be extremely frustrating at times. I’ve found GPs can be a bit useless unless they are just prescribing medication or carrying out simple procedures. I think you should have been referred on to a Specialist after the second visit and not have to wait so long. But at least it is sorted now. #TeamLovinLife

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      GPs are a challenge – my husband has an excellent one who is actually an ICU doctor as well but he’s incredibly hard to get in and see but so valuable for the management of long term conditions.

  7. How frustrating for you but thank heavens you finally got it sorted out. We do have private health insurance and every month I look at the cost of it and wonder. But, when we have needed it it has saved us a lot of money and I guess as we get older it might pay for itself more.
    I second using a pool if you have bursitis, I have found it really helpful in the past with a very painful hip.l

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Sounds like pool is the way to try and get started then – good low impact exercise!

  8. I trust you’re on the road to recovery now Vanessa. While our health system can be frustrating at times, we are very lucky to have such a high standard of medical care available to us here in Australia… even if we sometimes have to wait a while for it 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It really is good – I can’t imagine how bankrupted I would have been if this was in the US!

  9. It was a stitch? Voila! Good work. Glad to hear you are on the mend. Finally!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Just a stitch!!! Done! Still don’t believe it’s done haha.

  10. Firstly, glad you’re on the road to recovery – it’s been long one for you. Health insurance is a funny one – we’ve always had it, yet very often I wonder at the value. Where it has cost you not a lot, if you’re a private patient with insurance, ironically it’s very often heaps. Go figure. Re the other insurances? Yeah…there comes a time, right? #TeamLovinLife

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I look at health insurance and go “yeah I could probably re-budget and fit in the premiums” but then go…well… what about all the out of pocket stuff after that? And it doesn’t really seem to cover our needs as they’re (generally) less surgical and more ongoing consultations with specialists.

  11. […] don’t understand how insurances work. You may have seen my posts (and posts and posts and posts) about getting mine set up a bundle of years back. Getting them set […]

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