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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972

A Day in the Death of the Welfare State

page 11

A Day in the Death of the Welfare State

Last week, by accident I trod on Piggy Muldoon's 'special Social Services budget package.' I was surprised at the result, it just squashed flat. The outside looked great with the wrapping and everything, but it had nothing in it!

How did I manage to tread on it? Well, you see I had caught some sort of extremely rare disease, which is stilt to be identified.

Some of my friends' had put it down to flu or glandular fever, while some of my foes had put it down to a rare Indian malady. In the first instance I was urged to consult my doctor and in the second I was assured that the only way to rid myself of it was to get as far away from India as possible. It was suggested that somewhere south of the South Pole was the best place. Wishing to believe my friends I decided to see a doctor though this presented a problem, because I didn't have any money, being an unemployed type. I was into the second day of my illness and rapidly chewing through my second pack of 'as pros' before I saw the light Of course, why hadn't I thought of it before-every New Zealander has a right to medical care all I had to do was to go down to the Public Hospital, explain my illness and poverty and they would take it from there.

When I arrived at the Casualty Department I was confronted by a frightening young women who obviously had no idea of the normal relationship between receptionist and patient. The manner in which she asked for my name and address was enough to freeze the balls off the proverbial monkey. However, I was determined and launched into my story giving special emphasis to the difficulty in obtaining work in Wellington. I was hoping that this would have some effect on her hardened heart, but I couldn't really see any. All she did was keep flinging her arm in the air, pointing it in the general direction of the wall. I ignored this as time went by putting it down to some nervous disorder, but it became increasingly obvious' that unless I did something she would continue pointing indefinitely So reluctantly I looked in the direction she seemed to be pointing.

What I saw was a bloody big sign which in effect said that the Department only treated cases that the doctors consider to be accidents or emergencies. I wasn't put off by this and turned saying in the calmest voice I could muster "That's just the point. I haven't got a doctor and I haven't got one because I can't afford one, so please just be a good girl and let me see one of your's". She shook her head emphatically and began to point at the sign again. 'Christ, not that again I thought I decided to try another tack "Are you a doctor?" I asked as casually as possible. "I beg your pardon?" she replied as she rapidly tried to analyse what I was up to. I repeated my question and as she could see no sinister motive for such a seemingly crazy question, she admitted that she wasn't. As soon as she uttered the words I had been waiting for, I pounced, "Aha, just as I thought. Would you just put my card through then please, because according to your sign only the doctor has the discretion to decide who's an emergency and who's not. Reeling, but never the less realising that she was fairly beaten, she completed my card and told me to sit down and wait for my name to be called. This I did happily.

After about three quarters of an hour my name was called and I walked into the examination room confident that at last my disease was to be looked at. I was met by a staff nurse who said "And what is your name?" I told her my name and she asked me what was wrong with me. "Well I..... you see I picked up some sort of germ and it's really painful. My glands are swollen, I can't swallow and my head is bursting." She looked at me very firmly and said "Have you read the sign outside?" I admitted truthfully that I had. "Well," she said "you should know that we can't treat you here". "But hell I could be dying for all you know.' I countered, "and besides I can't afford a doctor". She said she was sorry but that was the way it was. She was sorry? I bet not half as much as I was. It was becoming obvious that there was no way could induce them to put a stick down my throat and get me to say "ah", short of collapsing in front of them. I would have done that, I was feeling so depressed, but I was soared they would put me in with the so called nuts in 17a. So instead I just thanked them for their help and left.

When I got outside I felt really bad. Boy! The sky had sure fallen on my head. I thought Piggy had fixed up all the social services in the budget. In fact, I was sure he had. Thinking I had better just check up, I went home and rang the Deputy Director of Hospitals at the Health Department. He said that he hadn't heard very much from Piggy at all this year and the policy I referred to had always been hospital policy, although he admitted that it was only recently that it had been enforced strictly. "A matter of necessity "he said.

Well I still wasn't satisfied, so I rang the Hospital concerned and asked to speak to the Superintendent. Needless to say, I couldn't speak to the Superintendent but I did speak to the man in charge of the Casualty Department. I told him the story and asked him how they decided a person wasn't an emergency case if they never examined them He couldn't answer right off, but after a moments hesitation he said that any person who waited two days before seeking medical advice couldn't be an emergency. I was simply amazed at his power of reasoning. I should have thought of that, it explained the whole thing. — If you are sick for more than two days without seeking medical advice, you just couldn't be an emergency. Even if you kicked the bucket you wouldn't be classed as an emergency, because you couldn't be, you had waited more than two days before seeing a Doc.

Armed with this information and another packet of the famous 'Aspro'. I went to bed and thought about it. I thought about Piggy's budget package that had squashed under my foot and I thought about Dr McMillan and all the hopes he must have had when he dreamt up the Social Services scheme. I bet he's one man that is turning in his grave.