The Truth without the Hysteria

Did you know that 90% of what is reported in the News Media is focussed on the 2% of the population that lie, cheat, or commit crimes? A further 9% covers Sport and Gambling, and only 1% covers the Good News stories from the other 98% of the population. Scary statistics, particularly the way our perceptions can be distorted by this skewing of reality.

You don’t need to look any further than a convicted drug smuggler in Bali getting paid $2 million by Channel 7 for an interview (which I for one will boycott and suspect many businesses would not want to be a part of either), and compare it with Channel 10’s $7 million purchase of the Sochi Winter Olympics rights, which gives several weeks of broadcast content of stars who have worked hard for their 15 minutes of fame.

Which killed more people in Australia last year: Bushfires, sharks, rips, floods or Cyclones? Rips, in fact rips at beaches killed more people than the other four combined. And would you believe that 4 times as many people die from consuming household chemicals than drown? Chemicals kept under the kitchen sink kill half as many people as our entire annual Road Toll. But who’d want to read about that?

And that is precisely the point – the media “controls” what you hear, and is influenced frequently by vocal minority groups. The justification is that we need to hear both sides of the story, and as is so frequently the case, don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story. A good debater or journalist can present statistics to favour any argument they choose. We, the public, need to have the skills to interpret what is not said, and instead apply some simple Common Sense.


“You want the Truth? You can’t handle the Truth” – Jack Nicholson’s famous line from “A Few Good Men” summarises the state of our Health debate. The media and our politicians would like us to believe we’ve had a debate before the last Federal election about our Health system. Not even close. What we had was electioneering about splashing more money around. I don’t fully understand our complex medical system and how all the funding works. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because as we all know, often you can’t see the woods for the trees – the so called experts are either too close to the issues, or have vested interests to defend. A whopping 16.5% of the Commonwealth Budget ($62 Billion) is spent on Health care each year. We don’t need a big inquiry (the ideas and answers are largely already there), but need a ma ture debate about these issues and listen to all different opinions. By chance, I ended up talking to a few people involved in our medical systems over the summer, and am convinced we don’t currently need a cent in extra funding – just the balls to have a truthful debate by casting aside vested interests, and examining what should be fairly obvious:

  • Federal and State Governments both have Health Departments. Do away with one of them. “Start by demolishing the expensive office in George St” one Doctor told me – he see’s them as a hurdle to doing his job and adding very little value in the huge Bureaucracy now required to run our health system.
  • Medical treatment is not “Free” – it is paid for by Tax payers. A small fee would discourage people who don’t need to see a Doctor, in turn freeing up Medical resources, and long term, reducing “demand” and with it, price.
  • No Show Fee’s – Ever wondered why people who are on time have to wait in the clinic? It’s because GP’s in particular overbook because of the number of No Shows. Because we perceive the service to be “free”, we don’t put any value on cancelling the appointment without notifying the clinic. Charge these people $100.
  • Referral System – A GP has to refer you to a Specialist. The funding each of these doctors receives has created a system whereby you need to keep going back to the GP before you again see a Specialist, even when you have an ongoing condition. Noticed also that between 2008 and 2012, the number of working Medical Practitioners increased by more than 16 percent (up 11,198) to 79,653 – with more Doctors available and hence greater “competition” for work, we need to make sure the system doesn’t create more work for the sake of it, but keeps a lid on costs.
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – Taxpayers are paying $8.32 for Paracetamol through PBS that can be bought for $1.89 at a Discount Chemist. Why??? And we could save $1.66 billion if we paid the same price as Britain ($3 per month) for generic anti-cholesterol lowering drugs ($31.18 here). People in Australia are not radically different to say people in the USA, so we should accept medicines approved by the US and other high standard systems without replicating testing and approvals.
  • Blood tests etc – Doctors now obtain Blood Tests much more frequently than before. “Do a proper examination, and 99% (exaggeration) of blood tests aren’t required”. Unfortunately Doctor’s use Blood Tests as a safety net to reduce the potential of legal action. And it creates a second repeat visit for the patient to get the results.
  • Toughen up, Buttercup – we are medicating kids (and adults) who don’t need it, prescribing anti-biotics and visits to Physio’s where we never used to, and so on. “Take a spoon of concrete and harden up” was a line a colleague once used – you know what I mean.
  • Let Pharmacies and Nurses handle more, such as issue medications and perform simple vaccinations (many times they do a better job of this anyway).
  • Euthanasia and Quality of Life versus Quantity of Life – whether we all understand it or not, some people don’t want to live any longer. Others need to make a choice between a long life of medical treatment, or a shorter one without the side effects. A proper process for informing patients factually about this, then giving them the options would benefit everyone (probably none more so than the surrounding family that also lives with the consequences of the path chosen).
  • Prioritise life improving procedures (i.e. hip replacements etc) to allow people to belong and continue to contribute and fit in better with society.
  • Personal Responsibility for Health development – encourage people to live healthier lives, and if people are told by medical specialists to make changes in their habits but don’t follow the advice, maybe restrict access to certain services. And if you choose not to vaccinate your children through well known immunisation programs, you choose to accept the cost if they do get those illnesses. If we won’t help ourselves, at least we chose the consequences.
  • Medical Certificates – our Industrial Relations rules have created a sense of Entitlement to an extra couple of weeks Leave each year. Most people are not sick that much, but it is an important Safety Net for people who are genuinely sick. The current system is unnecessarily clogging up our Medical system, and unfairly discriminates against people who don’t abuse the system. Consider doing away with Sick Leave altogether, and instead give all employees an extra weeks’ Annual Leave. It’d help businesses plan better too by not having to adapt at the last minute.

And all the above is before my pet areas of looking at improved efficiencies and wasteful spending… Or payroll systems that still can’t administer the thousands of Awards that have popped up. See them as Works in Progress, I don’t agree with all of them myself. People are living longer and our population is aging. The above is not about being callous or uncaring, but about opening up opportunities for a better health care system. The reality is that Health and other Government spending is increasing faster than tax collections are – in other words, we can’t keep doing what we are doing, and need to make changes.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

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