Thursday, August 25, 2016

If "the people have spoken" what have they said?

Image result for opinion poll icon
The Parliamentary Health Committee, along with all its other business, is commencing to hear some of the 1800 who have asked to air their views on voluntary euthanasia. Members of the Committee will tour the country to make it possible for selected submitters to have their say.

It’s interesting that nearly 80% of the 21450 submitters are against voluntary euthanasia. However, public polls have risen consistently to almost the same figure in favour of it. 

The cynic in me suspects that a large proportion of the submitters simply sent in their names and addresses and a single statement such as “I am opposed to voluntary euthanasia”. This, as I have stated previously, is clearly what the somewhat biassed Chairperson urged his Catholic community to do last year.  See “Turkey” Collins, 30th March 2016 and my less filppant Ask Someone Else, Simon, 31 Jan 2016.

As far as I know, the Clerk of the Committee has not yet released an analysis of the submissions received; indeed, the impression given is that they still haven’t finished counting them! It’s usual for submissions to be classified as to weight and relevance and I, for one, would like to see that information.

I haven’t heard if my request to speak will be accepted. It’s hard to see how I could add anything to a debate in which so much about the facts and fallacies on both sides has been widely shared. But if I’m asked, I’ll be there... 

For me, and a few dozen others each year, this is a very personal issue.

Lost Luggage?

I notice  my last post was on the whimsical side. I could easily write in a similar vein today but the subject is a lot more serious.

Parliament has started discussing a Private Member's Bill giving airports permission to manage their own lost luggage problems. This popped out of the Parliamentary ballot box recently. But David Seymour's Voluntary Euthanasia bill languishes there, perhaps for ever. Well, that's how the system works.

But it seems in bad taste for a grinning Prime Minister to be reported saying that his caucus supports the lost luggage bill. But I guess any old bill would do to fill up some debating time and to keep V E off the agenda.

Yes, it could be whimsical. But for many of us it's darn serious.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Colecalciferol Confusion

Image result for colecalciferol capsules 20000
A visit to Med Onc always ends up with prescriptions for all kinds of stuff, of course, and this week was no different.

However, what was different this time was a little difficulty arising from a small mistake several months ago.  I’d ordered up the full set of half a dozen items quarterly from my local doctor. He mistook my vague requirement for three Colecalciferol capsules a quarter and ordered up only two—which would be the correct dose for an Eclasta infusion which he assumed I would be having.

When I picked up the prescription and found I was one short, I contacted the pharmacy. They were sorry, but no, they could only provide exactly what was on the prescription. Certainly they couldn’t slip me another capsule.

I smoothed over the problem by ordering subsequent quarterly prescriptions somewhat earlier than I needed them so I would get access to this one capsule in time to take it on the proper day of the coming quarter. The system doesn’t seem to notice that I am getting several hundred dollars’ worth of medications somewhat ahead of when they are going to be used—at the end of this month I will have in my possession two Zoladex implants at around $500 each...

This week, to tidy all this up, my consultant prescribed four Colecalciferol, to enable me to catch up. But this morning I find only three capsules are in the container. Lengthy phone discussions with two people at the pharmacy have made it clear that this time they would be breaking the law if they filled the prescription exactly as the consultant wrote it. They can only issue three because the instructions were to take one each month. And they can only issue three months at a time.

So I asked if I could buy one capsule to make up the deficiency. No, they can’t sell prescription drugs—that’s against the law as well—but they could sell me a pack of 60 regular Vitamin D that were not as strong—for around $15. A sledgehammer to crack a nut, I thought.

“Just get your doctor to write another prescription for three”, they said.  Well my friendly GP would want $15 to write that and $5 to fax it to the chemist who would also charge the standard prescription part-charge of $5 when I pick it up. Not much of a deal, I thought.

How much are the darn capsules, I asked. They thought they were being refunded $15 for three. Actually, having extracted 120 pages of personal information from some eight systems linked to my National Health Index number—through some technical Right to Personal Information or something—I find that Colecalciferol capsules are being costed out on my records at a mere $1.01 each.

But I can’t give anyone a dollar to get one just to straighten this mess out. So I will carry on ordering the whole suite of stuff ahead of time just for the sake of having one capsule on the 6th of each month. And some time I’ll ask my Consultant for a separate prescription for just one Colecalciferol to bring everything up to date. That much cost will be on the generous public health budget but I will still have to pay the pharmacy part-charge of $5 when I fill the prescription. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the pharmacy didn’t make it up to two or three capsules because they couldn’t figure out what I would do with just one.

Somewhere in all this I think there must be the makings of a pretty good comedy script. But I wouldn’t write it because however much I am amused by its eccentricities I am grateful for the large amount of public funding that is keeping me going from day to day. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another trip to Med Onc

Another quarterly appointment...  Another trip across the city, and the 7am traffic report on the Northern Motorway was not encouraging. Another routine drag over the Bridge... Another Consultation with the dedicated specialists at Medical Oncology... But it was not quite routine. We had another change of consultant. And there was a little surprise to come.

I had to report a great increase in quality of life since the new meds early this year and that the side effects of these are quite manageable. My PSA had remained almost static for nearly four months. I commented that I’d had some weeks of a little more back pain than usual. My back has been a problem for half my life so we hadn’t paid a lot of attention to it. But Simon ran his fingers down my spine and when he got to L5 I jumped. No doubt about where the pain was coming from now. And a review of last month’s bone scan shows that the L5 and S1 vertebrae, the fundamental joint of the lower spine, are both now involved with the cancer.

So, another step on an interesting and challenging journey. It looks like I’ll be using some more consistent doses of Panadol from now on. No medication changes are being considered at this stage. It’s just a case of quarterly tests and watching and waiting while we get on with life. Plenty of that to do around here!