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Today's quote:

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Tom Gleeson plays HARD

Watch it on iview


I'm not much of a TV-watcher - I'm more into reading, you may've noticed! - but I like watching Tom Gleeson's HARD QUIZ. In last night's episode 3 in series 6 he asked contestant Judith to expose one of the great rip-offs in the medical profession: the referral.

Tom said it with a smile, so as not to be sued by the powerful Australian Medical Association: "You are a GP? Can you give me a referral, please? ... You know, when you get a referral to go to the dermatologist? That is a scam, isn't it? Can you say that? Say it on camera! Everyone knows it's true. Let's get it on the public record, so we can all admit it so that we can all go to the dermatologist without seeing you."

After a lifetime spent under tropical skies, I am seeing a dermatologist to keep an eye on my countless melanomas. I've been doing so for years but I can't just walk into his practice! Oh no! I first have to see a GP who, in exchange for a hundred dollars (the amount may vary between doctors but it's around the hundred-dollar mark of which Medicare refunds me thirty-five dollars *), gives me a piece of paper called a referral which allows me to see the dermatologist. But here's the catch: the referral is valid for only twelve months! So, every twelve months I have to see a GP again who, in exchange for a hundred dollars (the amount may vary etc.), gives me a new piece of paper called a referral which allows me to see the dermatologist again, ad infinitum.

The same charade began to play out after my operation and radiation at the Lifehouse in Sydney when I had to return for follow-ups, initially every three months and then every six months. More and more referrals, more and more hundred-dollar bills! Until I dared to ask the question, "I'll be doing this for the rest of my life! Isn't there an easier way?" To which the surgeon's receptionist replied in an almost conspiratorial whisper, "You could ask your GP for an INDEFINITE referral!"

And so I did! After a long pause - during which he no doubt silently calculated the number of monthly repayments on his new BMW he'd be missing out on - the GP reluctantly issued me with that precious piece of paper, an INDEFINITE referral, which, assuming another ten years before the final autopsy makes further referrals unnecessary, would've been worth the equivalent of a thousand dollars in today's money.

Unfortunately, it was not to be, as my GP left town which, even more unfortunately, I mentioned to the dermatologist who immediately informed me that this cancelled my indefinite referral and that I would once again have to see another GP for a new referral which, depending on the new GP's bank balance, may or may not be an indefinite one.

As contestant Judith, who is a GP, said to Tom, "I like to eat!" Eat what? Caviar? Who am I to take it out of her mouth? (indeed, who am I?)

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*) a tiny repayment out of the several thousands of dollars I pay every year in Medicare Levy; the only Government "hand-out" I receive as a self-funded retiree is my public transport concession which allows me to use all of Sydney's trains, ferries and buses for a mere $2.50 a day; pity I don't get to Sydney more than twice a year and then only for a day.