It's that time of year when some men are shaving off the mustaches and possibly beards they've grown during Movember to support research into prostate cancer and other serious male disorders; others like the look and decide to keep them, despite protests from their "better halves."
Mine was still there a decade later as I arrived at the pathologist for an annual blood test including PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels recently. The room was empty when I arrived, but each time I and subsequent arrivals pressed an alert bell on the wall in compliance with a written notice, a technician poked her head out of a door and announced impatiently to the waiting patients, "I'm with a patient…"
Finally, another elderly gent emerged and I'm called in. First, she gives me a lecture about ringing the bell and I tell her a nurse rang it on behalf of others in the waiting room. She still eyes me with suspicion as she hands me a sheet of paper and says "Read this, the Medicare rules have changed from November 1, and you might now have to pay for your blood test, which was previously free…that's what the delay was as I tried to explain it to the previous patient, but in the end, he refused to have it."
"Well, I can understand that. The government claims it's reducing the cost of medical care but in the past few weeks I've had to consult an eye surgeon, a cardiologist and a skin specialist which has cost me an arm and a leg and now you tell me I might be charged for this blood test!"
She gives me another sceptical look, noting that no limbs are missing as she replies, "Yes, it's complicated … read the paper and fill in the questions."
These related to whether I or any close blood relatives had ever had prostate cancer or a range of other conditions aligned with this frequently problematic male organ. I tick a couple and place crosses besides others. (Fortunately, it would not have to pass checks by The Voice Referendum scrutineers.)
She casts an eye over it and says, "Well that might qualify you for a free test, but I can't say for sure."
"Will my doctor know when I go for the test results?"
"No, he won't know and you won't know until when, or if, you receive an invoice on your mobile phone."
Great! Maybe there will be another giant Optus stuff-up and it will be lost somewhere in the cyber-world.
Anyway, she painlessly draws enough blood to provide Dracula with a pre-dinner drop of his favourite O - red, I bid her goodbye, and she looks relieved to see her next patient is a young woman. But as more men arrive, I think she'll be in for a long day.
Early the following week, I visit my GP at a busy clinic that still doesn't bulk bill, despite platitudes and assurances from Prime Minister Albanese and his Health Minister Mark Butler that they were investing millions to ensure bulk billing services would be expanded from November.
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