Today I had a body part removed. It wasn't a "major" operation though, as everybody kept telling me. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel slightly backed into a corner.
Apparently part of a filling on my back molar came off "some time ago" (hey, if portions of me are falling out already, maybe this really wasn't such a big deal) and after that my tooth became infected. The nerve - or, to use the correct terminology, the "pulp" - was dying and thus I had a choice between an extraction (it sounds so harmless) or a root canal (which sounds like something nice to visit in Venice). So those were my options.
But that's just the thing - there were no real options at all. Despite a course of antibiotics and a fairly liberal smattering of painkillers, this one little tooth was causing me fairly regular bouts of agony. As soon as possible was the main thing on my mind.
That in itself got rid of one supposed "option" - the root canal - available only to those people with a lot more money than myself, or private health insurance. (Incidentally, if I actually had health insurance, I suspect any situation wherein I had a lot of money would be quickly resolved by said health insurance's bills.)
So why is this the case? Well, as newspaper reports have stated, Victoria's public health system has been on a downward slide for some time now, and as today's Age editorial argues, the quick fix of off-setting some of those patients on the public waiting list by paying their way into private hospitals "won't cure [the] unhealthy system".
According to the editorial, some 40,000 people are on the waiting list for "non-urgent" surgery, with another 20,000 on a secondary list just to see a specialist.
Of course, some of these surgeries really are non-urgent, and the waiting time understandable - but some are not. Because of the incompetencies of the system, I was today forced to choose between ongoing pain for the next year or so - at least - and having my tooth removed. I'm 22 years old - a little young to be losing my teeth, I would have hoped.
My example isn't the worst of it though - one has only to think of elderly patients in need of hip replacements, ligament surgery and the like. The pain for them must be unbearable.
It's enough to make a me sigh through my newly toothless grin.
Edit: As you probably know, the American health system is even worse than ours - by far, in fact. It seems that Michael Moore, that great raconteur of the downtrodden masses, has gotten sick of it all, and has decided to make his next film about the US public health system.
This is surely a positive sign for the Americans, but I doubt it will help us much - in fact, Bracks and his cronies will probably use it to focus on just how much better our system is than our American pals' - if he's smart, that is. I wonder what happened to all the great promises Bracks made after he kicked the similarly inept Kennett out of office?