Public v Private

ImageThe New Zealand pulic health system is simply fantastic. The popular myth that it is better to go private is simply untrue.



When I was presented with the option of a public-private partnership it seemed like the perfect situation. To ease the load on the public system some hip replacements were being done in private hospitals where theatre capacity was available. I made some further enquiries.

If the quick money-making operation went without a hitch there would have been nothing to worry about. However in the event of any complications these would have needed to be handled by the public system. In practical terms this would have meant being wheeled out the operating theatre to a lift, going down to an ambulance, and going off to the public hospital where, if a theatre was available, they would try to sort everything out. The private hospital had mauve carpets, pseudo imitation Picasso prints and plastic flowers, but neither the facilities nor the interest to deal with an emergency.

The choice was a no-brainer, but perhaps just as importantly for me I was beginning to discover the enormous difference between “private” and “public”. For quick money-making procedures private is great. The bottom line is profit. For serious medical problems the facilities and back up in the public system are infinitely superior.

Slowly the horror stories began to emerge, now that the mental filter that “privatization is good for you” had gone. The botched operation where “private” refused to accept responsibility for the mess. The patient was sent off to public. The high risk patients where “private” was not willing to take the risk. The realisation that a patient with Alzheimer’s costs more to look after, and so gets sent off to the compassionate environment of public.

Some of the small distinctions turned out to be not quite so small. Anyone opting even for the “public-private” hip operation will find they need to pay for the occupational therapy aids which are provided with a smile in the public system. So you decide you can manage without, unaware of the impact on your recovery process. If you should end up with a dislocation you will be sent back to the public system so why should the private folk care. Profit ahead of service. Then you will find that in “private” you are shown the door, along with your bill, ready or not. Putting profit ahead of health means getting a high bed turnover. In the event of not making it you will be sent back to “public”, so private has nothing to lose and much to gain.
In public it is the patient who is important, and if you need an extra day in hospital so that you will ready for a good recovery that is never questioned.

Those who praise the “privatization” of everything really ought to have a hip replacement. They would learn a thing or two.