Australia's Health Care System

Just need to get this off my chest, and this is about the only Australian forum I’m a member of…

My sister in law has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis came after a biopsy was performed, which identified it as triple negative - a very aggressive cancer, that “could” have grown from nothing to a 50c piece within a matter of months. The doctor advised her at the time of diagnosis that if the cancer was only in her breast, she had a very good chance of surviving, if it was also in her lymph nodes, that chance dropped to about 70%, but if it had already spread to other organs, she would be considered terminal.

In order to make this vital determination, she had to have a full body scan, and that was going to be 10-12 weeks away. Given the kind of cancer… that kind of time frame could be long enough for it to spread.

Luckily for her, thanks to someone she knew (and not going into details…) she was able to get that full body scan 2 days after her diagnosis. The cancer has spread to some of her lymph nodes, but the doctor is very hopeful. She has already started therapy, and we are hopeful for her outcome.

BUT… if she hadn’t got in for that scan as fast as she did… ???

Medicare is meant to give us all free healthcare. If we want more, we can pay for private care. But even before COVID the system was failing.

I don’t know what the answer is, I doubt the government will increase Medicare further, especially after its increase for the NDIS… I don’t like that private health care is subsidised through taxes, and I’d love to see some figures showing that that system is still working at relieving strain on the public system. My understanding is that the private system does a really good job at making a profit, and not much else…


The health system is certainly far from perfect. As is the education system in my opinion. And the aged care system. Unfortunately there are no easy answers. I have to say though that a lot of people from overseas say that their country could only dream of having a health system as good as ours.

I have noticed over many years, it seems to me anyway, that our hospitals, certainly the emergency departments, are clogged with people who shouldn’t really be there. It seems these days that if you call an ambulance it is mandatory that they take you to hospital. I also think that the quality of doctors seems to have gone downhill a bit over the last, say, 20 years.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me. I wish your sister in law a speedy recovery hobo.


I suspect that the conservatives underfunded our public health care system, NDIS, public education system etc. for a decade with the aim of undermining their viability and reputation. Look what they did to the NBN instead of doing a proper job with fibre everywhere.

So much money has been redirected to the private health providers, and the private education system. They claim we pay too much tax. Yet we are one of the lowest taxing countries in the OECD. Ref:

We need to reform and simplify our tax system. For example, stop providing tax incentives for those who have more then $3M in super. Stop favouring wealthy people buying their fifth investment property over kids buying their first home. We need to reform our approach to housing. Our houses should be viewed as a basic necessity, not as an investment, so our kids have a chance to find a rental accommodation and to buy their own houses.

Then we will have enough money for universal healthcare and education

I better stop ranting now. Sorry.


Unfortunately, Australian governments, both federal & state, seem to be more interested in being re-elected than actually doing anything useful to improve the country.

Certainly compared to the USA, we are living the dream. Cannot complain there. I’ve no idea how my sister in law would be paying for her treatment if she over there - actually I do, my father in law would be selling his house…

I was royally pissed off when Howard started subsidising private health care. Still am. Rather than putting money into the private to supposedly relieve pressure on the public, the money should just be going into repairing the public system.

Was just reading on the ABC about the ambulance ramping issues… And yes - basically what every hospital needs, right next to its ER, is a free health care clinic. At Logan Hospital they have one - you go into the ER, and basically if you’re not really that sick, the triage nurse will direct you to the clinic instead. That would help to get people out of the ER who are just there because they can’t get in to see a GP.

Regarding it being mandatory to go to hospital after calling an ambulance… that would come down to litigation avoidance / duty of care…

10-12 weeks is ridiculous, and even negligent.

I am going through the exact same thing with my wife at the moment. Luckily they got her into the PET scan within a few days of the initial biopsy confirming it is there. The initial biopsy didn’t show anything in the lymph nodes. The PET scan shows there seems to be inflammation there, but that could be due to two recent biopsy’s in the region. We are still awaiting the results of the second biopsy.
She starts treatment with chemo and immunotherapy on Tuesday.
It has all happened so very fast with almost daily appointments of one sort or another.

I am lucky to have private health insurance provided for myself and my family through work, so we have been going through the private system. But it shouldn’t matter in regard to time sensitive conditions like this.

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A simple solution to people turning up to hospital emergency departments for non-emergency complaints would be simply to triage them as “needing to see a GP” and having a bulk billing GP on the premises they would then be sent to.

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Yes, it’s too easy really! So why doesn’t it happen?

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Sorry to hear you are going through this too.

My mother in law died 15 years ago from breast cancer that spread, so - lot of emotions going on here. My wife is now committed to a full mastectomy as her sisters cancer is genetic, and her mothers was lifestyle, so either way she figures she’s better off without them.

My wife is leaning the same way. But we haven’t done the genetic testing yet. It’s on the treatment plan at present.

I wish your wife a speedy recovery too DogKnight.

I don’t have a history of cancer in my family. I had a cousin who died from leukaemia quite a few years ago but I don’t know of any others. Heart disease is what runs in both sides of my family.

My mum died at the end of January. It was unexpected but not a huge surprise if you know what I mean. She was 89. She was still living in her own house. Doing here own shopping & cooking. It appears that she put her feet up in front of the tv one afternoon for a nana nap & just didn’t wake up. I couldn’t think of a better way to go really.

Thank you Richard.

And while it is never easy to lose family, I think anyone would consider themselves lucky to pass in such a way when the time comes. Having seen some of my grandparents in palliative care and their respective conditions slowly getting worse, I have definitely witnessed much worse scenarios. May your mother rest peacefully.


Yes, compared to the US, ours is very good. Compared to say, Finland, Norway, and plenty of other progressive countries, ours is complete garbage.

Ours was good, but repeated conservative govt (yes Howard, followed by Abbott), looked at the US private sector, no public servants, user pay, for profit model, and says, “that’s for us!”

Diverted govt funds that should have gone to public health, into subsiding private health.

Abominable, ruthless (Robodebt anyone?) govt policy that knew would leave people with no health care.


All the best with your sister in law mate.

The govt of both persuasions, keep saying ‘it’s not all about money’.

Yes it is!

Billions more needs to flow into health, to fund the staff and the infrastructure (eg more MRI machines so there isn’t a 12-week wait!). To fund it we to pay more tax.


With the state of health and the budget, things like the stage three cuts must not go ahead, and then some.

Conservatives keep cutting taxes leaving no money to fund the services we need.

We whinge about tax…until you actually need a hospital, police, fireman etc…

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Yes, or increase Medicare bulk billing rates so people can see a GP and never have to go to hospital.

I’m not a GP, but the GP’s are right. They are the front line in health. They could do heaps more to relieve the pressure on hospitals, but they need to be properly funded (see post on tax) so people can afford to see them.


Yes - the freeze on the rebates for GPs was awful. We are losing GPs everywhere, in particular in rural areas. I say a heart-felt thank-you to all the staff whenever I visit the GP because I appreciate that they have a hard job, and aren’t well paid for it (all things considered).

We need the government to cut out the private health subsidies - phase them out over a decade or something - and get the money back where it belongs. Before pushing a medicare levy increase I’d want to see that…

And yes - there’s far too much support for people who already have money to make more money. Pull that back and put it into health and education.