A Downtown Medical Professional

 As I walked past the couturier’s shop in Collins Street, peering in as a beggar at a feast, I sighted a chic young lady within. She looked at me and beckoned. I looked at myself. I saw myself, dressed for my work, in all the formality and  

the finery of a downtown medical professional. And I bethought myself: I do not look chic. I will not look right within those bright halls. I shook my head, but the chic one persisted. She nodded emphatically. I approached the crystal doors and the chic one emerged. ‘How good to see you, Howard! Come in! Come in!’
I came in. A large man dressed in tails stood on the threshold. He bowed and smiled a welcome. He finished his smiling and remained where he stood, large and decorative and solid.

  

My friend looked really happy to see me. I looked about me. I was the only person present who was not a member of staff. Perhaps I should be a customer. I looked at the goods on display. I sighted handbags. In a discreet undertone I remarked to my friend: ‘I am glad I am not wealthy enough to buy this one’ – indicating an overdecorated number in a shade of steatorrhoea. My friend looked at me searchingly: ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean this probably costs the earth and it’s grotesque.’

My friend gasped. I must be joking.
We crossed to the sunglasses. I wear sunglasses about as often as I wear a handbag. I asked: ‘Can you show me your most expensive pair?’

Good naturedly my friend indicated a pair of sunglasses resting in a box labelled ‘First Edition.’ I asked, ‘How much?’

‘One thousand, nine hundred.’

I thought of my First Editions at home. Patrick White’s first novel was published in a limited print run. He came to judge the novel, ‘Happy Valley’, an embarrassing failure. He forbade reprint. As a result, copies of that First Edition are extremely rare and quite costly. The purchase price of my copy was less than the price of the couturier’s sunglasses. 

I decided I would not buy that pair. I sighted another pair whose convex lenses shone golden in those halls of light. I tried them on and admired myself in a mirror. ‘How much?’ ‘Seven hundred.’ I put the glasses down carefully. 
My friend and I surveyed the shop. ‘Nice shop’, I said. My friend smiled, ‘Yes, we like our boutique.’

Before us, seven young ladies and one nearly young, gazed at us, smiling warmly. I find it pleasant when young ladies smile at me. I smiled back, revealing the broken paling fence of my front teeth. ‘This is my friend Howard,’ said my friend. The smiles shone, still warm. ‘He’s a doctor,’ said my friend. 

‘What sort of doctor?’, asked the nearly young one. She looked truly interested. She rested a friendly hand upon my forearm.

‘A GP’, said my friend.

‘Oh.’
I looked around. Seven young ladies, one nearly young, one old friend and one large man keeping station at the threshold. My eyes feasted on their finery. ‘I think I’m the only customer, ‘ I said. My friend gasped. ‘Shhhh’, she said. I shushed. I made my farewells and I stepped out into the autumn.

Budget 2014

As a family doctor I’ve been thinking about the co-payment to be made for bulk-billed visits to the GP. It has taken me weeks to come to some sort of appreciation of what is going on. A surprisingly long time, really given that I have average intelligence and a keen direct interest. Let me tell you what I have discovered – three things.

The first is no-one has a very clear idea of how the system will work. Will it work like the GST where the provider of the service acts as the government’s tax collector? Will the literally penniless who attend a GP be seen and treated, or must the GP send that person to a public hospital? Or will we be permitted (thanks Messrs Abbott and Hockey) to treat that person gratis? WHAT IS CLEAR HERE IS OBSCURITY. OBSCURITY FATHERS CONFUSION, WHOSE OFFSPRING IS ANXIETY. THE POOR WILL GET SICKER.

I work both in middle class clinics where we bill patients privately and in outback Aboriginal communities where bulkbilling is universal and absolutely and literally lifesaving. Privately billed patients will hardly blink. Aboriginal patients will revert to the traditional healer. If you aren’t appalled at this thought please consider the case of your own child, 500 kilometres from a hospital, feverish, endangered, and effectively unattended. Dickens wrote of this plight in the London of his day. Messrs Hockley, Abbott – go bush, sit down, listen and reconsider!

Finally, I gather the bulkbilled will enjoy a safety net. After ten co-payments, the system bulk-bills them again, free of charge. Ten times seven equals seventy, equals 1 and a smidgeon dollars a week, equals less the cost of one icy pole every five days. Where’s the gain? The gain is derisory: that means BUGGER ALL help to the bottom line. The gain comes at the cost of derision. Messrs A and H hold us in derision. Where’s the pain? The pain is in the deterrence. Don’t go the doctor if you are poor. It’s not government policy. Where’s your mateship? Your citizenship? Your sense of responsibility? The age of entitlement is over. Get real. Get rational. Harden the f-up.

I know how hard hard can get. That condition is called rigor mortis.