Healthcare cuts leaving pensioners for dead

  • Tracy Sorensen
  • August 6, 2016
  • Health

By Lauchlan Eggins

Lithgow resident Robyn Bellis was placed on an extended waiting list for non-elective stomach surgery which resulted in 11 years of chronic pain. In November of 2003, the then 43 year old Bellis noticed a persistent sharp pain in her stomach which would not cease. A doctor’s  diagnosis and numerous ultrasounds found she had an umbilical hernia, a stomach and intestinal injury thought to be the result of pregnancies earlier in life.

As a member of the public healthcare system, Bellis was prescribed pain killers and told that the best that could be done was to massage the area whenever pain arose.

In 2014, after 11 years of repeated hospital visits due to constant discomfort and agony, Bellis noticed the pain worsening and went for another ultrasound. This showed her hernia could no longer be massaged back into place, as it had adhered to the lining of her stomach.

As a result, Bellis’ situation was now deemed urgent. However, after 5 weeks of waiting for the emergency surgery the procedure was postponed for another three weeks, leaving her in eight weeks of nearly unbearable pain.

In 2014 Bellis’ surgery coincided with the release of the newly elected Abbott government’s budget, which set out cuts to national hospital and healthcare of $57 billion over 10 years. The subsequent Turnbull government failed to restore health care funding, although it promised an additional $2.9 billion to be invested in health services over three years.

Consequently, local hospitals and public health services across the Calare electorate are expected to see mass cuts in funding. A projection made by campaign group Get Up estimates that Orange healthcare service funds will experience a loss of up to $279.3 million by 2026. This equates to around 175 doctors, 311 nurses, and 168 hospital beds.

Bellis, who was given countless referrals to specialists in Bathurst, Orange, and Penrith, believes that pensioners will be hit the hardest by these funding cuts.

“People work all their lives paying taxes and sometimes even for medical funds, but when you get sick as a pensioner, more often than not, you can’t afford treatment”, says Bellis.

Bellis says that most pensioners can’t afford to be a part of a private medical fund, with rates for a single pensioner as of March 2016 standing at $873.90 per fortnight. She says that if you are a pensioner and part of the public healthcare service and your situation is not urgent, it doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, you will be placed on a waiting list.

However, it is not only surgeries and procedures that will be affected by budget cuts. All areas of health and rehabilitation services will be impacted.

“I had to wait over nine weeks for a session in a hydro therapy pool, which is a treatment needed for countless illnesses and injuries”, says Bellis.

Bellis feels as though if someone who is sick and elderly is not close to you, it is easy to forget that pensioners often bear the brunt of government spending cuts, particularly to healthcare.

“If it’s not your family you often forget who is being affected, it’s as if the older you get the more you’re left to wait and deemed non-urgent”, says Bellis.

Image: Lithgow Hospital

Journalism lecturer and tutor, CSU.

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