‘Treated like an old fool: How a specialist tried to get the better of me’

Oct 16, 2020
Fran was left unimpressed after a visit to an eye specialist. Source: Getty

Recently I have had a few small health issues. My very capable and caring GP decided she would double-check a couple of things with a specialist – just in case.

Now I know I am on the downside of my life, but I am not what I’d call old. I do have health issues but I cope fairly well most of the time and some of these issues have nothing to do with being old, so why is it that I am treated like an old fool when I am checking on my health?

I had to see an eye specialist here in Tasmania. It was just down the road, so travel was not an issue. My doctor knows I am on the poverty side of finances, so she is not going to send me to someone who does not give pensioner discounts or possibly bulk bill – or so she thought.

I only had to wait 10 minutes, so I thought this was a good start. How wrong I was. First, a young woman trained in working the machines took down my details and got me to read the eye chart. No problems. She informed me that my eyes were really good, so I had to take a seat while she showed the specialist. I would probably not need to see her. Couldn’t cost too much then, right?

Five minutes passed and the young woman returned. The specialist thinks I should have two more tests. One will have a small Medicare rebate but the other will not. I am informed it will cost me $258, $58 of which will be reimbursed by Medicare. I agreed. It’s not great but I know I have that much. The specialist doesn’t need to do the test herself, so this young woman, who tells me it took her about two months to learn to operate the machine, will do it instead. Five minutes later I have had the tests and am back in the waiting room.

Eventually, after having to wait for the specialist, who I had the appointment with 25 minutes earlier and still have not actually laid eyes on, she calls me in to tell me my eyes are really good but she just might do one more test. She does it and decides I have a dry tear duct and need eye drops. A lot of tests for eye drops and to be told constantly how good my eyes are.

She then decides perhaps I should have blood tests and an MRI and go back to see her after those. Remember I’m fine apart from a dry tear duct.

Now the good part. She takes me to the front desk. I am told they will fax my referral for the MRI and will contact me that afternoon. “That will be $407”. Excuse me! Oh, and I cannot have an appointment to see the specialist at the brand-new very large and expensive surgery next time, because their printers are not working. I will need to travel the other side of town. The best part is, it will cost me at least another $260 to see her again. All this from a specialist who has repeatedly told me I just need eye drops.

Of course the story would not be complete if I did not let you know that they forgot to fax the referral through. I ended up having to screenshot it for the receptionist the following afternoon so she could make me an appointment.

I am willing to bet they find nothing except that I have recurring migraines. I’m not a specialist though. Needless to say, I will not go back to them. My GP will sort it. I have confidence in her and we both think this is what it might be, because she listens to me as I know my own body most of the time. I know she was just being thorough when she referred me but she is not happy either about the cost and what went on there.

I will not pay that specialist another cent. I do not even know why I would have to go back unless she got bad results, which she has not yet. Oh wait – it’s the fee. Since I have complained I was told they did nothing wrong and as a pensioner, they gave me a discount. How much was that discount? $6.45 on one test and $8.00 on the other.

Some people seem to think that as we age we become automatically senile and turn into old fools. That is the only explanation I can think of that would make these people, who I have found out, have a boss with two mansions in Tasmania and two in Victoria, so incredibly greedy.

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