Banged Up In The Sick Bay; Or, How Not To Spend Your Day Off.

30 08 2012

THIS week, rather than take care of some pressing errands during my Monday off, I decided to trial Australia’s health care system by spending 24 hours in a public hospital.

Some background: I had a sore throat the past week, hardly big news, although I can report several packets of Strepsils had no effect. Forward to Sunday night and things escalate to the point where I’m sure someone is poking round in my throat with a blunt sword. (Ironically, this is pretty much what did go down later).

Monday morning, I count down the hours to 8am when I can call a GP. (I can’t speak very clearly at this point.) Call the two in my street, then the one down the road: “We’re not seeing new patients.” Pricks. Finally mumble my details to some clinic across town and haul my ass over there. 9.20am.

To my pleasant surprise, my new friends in Brunswick use bulk-billing, which is handy. Less thrilling is when my new doctor takes one look at my swollen tonsils and says, “Get yourself to emergency. I‘m not touching this one.” Or words to that effect.


At this point, I have a decision between regular A&E or the Ear, Nose & Throat department next door, so I gamble on the specialists and front the desk. Bang down some painkillers, sit around for an hour or so, then see a doctor who proclaims I have a Peritonsillar Abscess. Damn.

This is where things became interesting. First up is a bumbling nurse whose bedside manner provides no comfort whatsoever. While she is fussing about attaching an IV line, she actually manages to spray my own blood in my eyes and across her own shirt. This doesn’t seem right.

Next the doctor brings in a medical student/observer to display her latest case (me). They’re all very excited about the swollen freakshow that is my throat. I am informed I’ll be staying overnight once they have extracted all the goop from my throat and it’s about now that I begin wondering whether I should have bought private health insurance.

But, I soon learn if you are in a public hospital for an emergency, all fees are waived. Hurray for you, Australia’s free public health system. Wonder if they might have a crack at my dodgy ankle as well.

Operation time. It’s around noon. Quite a crowd has gathered. I guess that’s the price you DO pay – free surgery, but you also become a training tool.

No less than three doctors poke around in my throat which has thankfully been anaesthetised, at least locally. Two students look on. One of them actually says ‘Whoa!’ at one point. I endeavour to reach this one to punch her in the face. Bumbling nurse is happily nowhere to be seen.

Afterward I get carted upstairs in a wheelchair which is mildly embarrassing but also kind of fun. At first I have the six-bed ward to myself, but then it begins filling with dudes who have suffered industrial eye accidents and one bloke with a fish-bone stuck in his throat.

The doctor insists I should have the rest of the week off (sure thing, my casual bar job has an excellent health care package…) but I do concede I probably won’t be going in to work either this day or the next. Make some calls. It’s around now I realise if you ever DO need a day off, just throw ‘emergency ward’ casually into the conversation and employers get all giddy and … caring. Good to know.

Spend the evening watching bad television and considering which is worse – hospital food or airline food. Too close to call, but I did enjoy the jelly and icecream which proved kind of soothing to my tortured throat.

Spend a restless night listening to some guy snoring and being woken up regularly to have more drugs pumped into my arm intravenously. They seem to work though, and next morning, things are looking a damn sight more chirpy.

Get the hell out of there and resolve to not drink quite so much. This week.