The Great Australian Medical System is Not Working for this Expat

I've been thinking about this blog for a while, but not writing it. I'm sorry. I hate to be such a whiner.

And it's changed from what I originally wanted to write. Originally, it was just my experience in the Nambour hospital with a broken hip, but it's become more a story about how, as an expat, I don't feel like I am being taken care of medically in Australia.

I try not to be negative about this beautiful country where I am a guest. I think Australia is a great place. If a young person, including my son, really wanted to make a home here, I'd encourage them. In many ways, it's a bubble of sanity compared to what's happening back home.

But, for me, an American just over here for a few years, this medical thing is NOT working.

Actually, so far, Nambour Hospital worked pretty well. We didn't even have to sign anything to get out of there. They will send the bill to BUPA, our private insurance. Then we will see what happens next.

My surgery happened quickly because it was emergency surgery. When you break the bone I broke, and the bones are still in place,  a quick surgery and  the insertion of some pins and a plate can enable the bones to grow back. If the bones had not been in place or I'd been older, they'd have done a complete hip replacement. They hope I live long enough to outlast a hip replacement with this surgery. Anyway, I broke my bone on Sunday and my surgery was on Monday. So far, so good.

I've already blogged about how they tried to get me to take more drugs than I wanted. They were almost indignant about just WHY I had gas and stomach issues, when I asked for some anti-acids. When I did my research, I found that they are typical side effects of the surgery I had. Did no one tell them?

They scolded me for my blood pressure and my blood sugar being high. Actually, I was surprised myself since the only doctor I've visited over here didn't seem interested in the least in my general health.

Their physical therapists were very helpful and got me up a walking on Tuesday, the day after my surgery. They taught me to get up out of a chair and go up and down stairs, but I do have an issue with them.

I asked several times for exercises to do to get back on my feet and they always said, "Later, later," and "Later" turned into "Never." On Thursday before Easter, when I finally escaped, they were very good in teaching my husband how to help me go up and down stairs. And I will not go up and down stairs without him right there at this point. That was very important and useful, but everyone was so impatient to get going for the big four-day Easter weekend that the exercises never happened. 

And now I'm reading online that I should have started exercises in bed the day after surgery and should be doing them now. But when I look up what exercises I should be doing, every place says I need to have a physical therapist show me what to do.

Evidently, I need to be increasing my range of motion and my leg strength. I just don't want to make anything worse. At the hospital, I was told that if I put weight on that foot before six weeks, I could pop the ball of the hip off. I DO NOT want to do that!

Also, Nambour isn't in the same medical network as Brisbane, so I had to visit my GP to get a referral to an orthopedic doctor to treat me. I had not been happy with the treatment I'd had from the one doctor I'd visited here, so I went to my husband's doctor. He recommended me to a buddy and when we got home we found out I can't see him until May 8th, almost a month away. My husband's doctor did not look at the incision. We think my bandages should probably be changed but no one has mentioned it. Should I have my stitches out before May 8th? We don't know.

I tried to go back to work on the Tuesday after Easter. That was one week and one day after my surgery. For some unexplained reason, I almost fainted when I got up on my crutches to go to the bathroom. I did get back to my desk.  Then it hit me again. And again. And again. So I called my husband to come get me.  I ate my sandwich and felt better by the time he got there.

Back to the emergency room. That doctor checked out my heart, declared it fine and me free from blood clots, speculated that high blood sugar and blood loss from the surgery were my problem and told me to stay home one more week. She was also shocked when I told her the one doctor I've visited did not seem at all interested in my day to day health or keeping up my annual exams. But he didn't. 

During that week, we visited Dan's doctor and got the referral for May 8. He didn't seem very interested my my general health either.

So today I'm back at work and doing fine.  But, what exercises should I be doing? Does my dressing need changed? When should stitches come out? We have no earthly idea. 

Actually, I looked it up and they need to be out NOW. So who do I have take them out? I'm going to use the online feature at my Doctor's office to try to contact him and tell him that I can't see the doctor he recommended until May 8th and that what I'm seeing says the stitches need out. If he doesn't do anything, we may see if we can make an appointment back in Nambour and each take a day off from work and drive up there to see someone .  

Then I can see what I need to be doing to get well. I'm starting to think I may have to go back to the U.S. to get any health care.  Not at all what I expected....

But I'd like to know others' experiences. Back home, my doctor would have contacted an orthopedic clinic and that clinic would have contacted me for an appointment. My doctor's office would have coordinated my whole care. Does it not work that way here? 

I really do feel like I'm out on my own. If you're in the system here, do doctors keep records of what annual exams you need or are you expected to do all of that? Do you have to ask them to do basic health checks? 

I am looking forward to Obama care and have always been in favor of socialized medicine. So I want to know if what I'm experiencing is just Australia, Australian expats, or what. What's in like in Canada? England?  Now I'm curious.... and in the meantime, I have to figure out how to take care of a broken hip on my own, I guess.


  1. I'm really sorry to hear that you've had such a bad time with the health care in Australia. It does sound like you haven't been given nearly enough information or resources for follow up. We almost moved to the Sunshine Coast and we even toured the Nambour hospital maternity ward because we thought we'd have our baby there!
    I have to say that, on balance, my experience with the Australian health care system has been amazing. We came on a PR so have always used Medicare and public hospitals. I think it depends a lot on luck of the draw - I sense that not all hospitals and practioners are created equal. I'm happy to have found a GP that takes good care of us, but have heard many friends struggle to find a good one. I've had a few niggling issues here and there, but on balance it's been good for us. I actually wrote a post about our experiences, if you're interested.


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