Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mid Winter Health Scares!

It has been the first week of the mid winter holidays and we have certainly been missing the sun this week. My eldest daughter has been desperately missing Kindy and my husband has been suffering from a bad dose of flu. This meant that the first half of this week has been spent trying to convince him he should be staying in bed and cancelling various play dates we had arranged just in case it was Swine Flu.

We have had our first experience of the health care system in New Zealand this week due to daughter Number 1s ear ache. Luckily we are now registered with our local GPs surgery as we have been on the waiting list for three months. I rang them up in the morning and explained that my daughter had been in tears with ear ache for the last hour and they gave me an appointment at 12 o'clock. Something that would never have happened in the UK - we always had to wait at least a day or two to get to see our last UK GP.

So I gave my daughter some Ibuprofen and we headed down there at twelve. Parked the car and hopped out and my daughter announced that her ear was no longer hurting. She skipped all the way to the Surgery and chatted to the receptionist looking the picture of health. I found myself sounding very unconvincing when the Doctor could see nothing wrong with her ear and I was saying "honestly she was in tears earlier from the pain"! Typical four year old behaviour!

The Doctor was very nice and I certainly felt we had more time to see him than in the UK - it was less of a conveyor belt service. But then we do have to pay for it here. I still feel somewhat uncomfortable handing over money to someone who has your, or your child's health in their hands. I feel (unreasonably I know) that people should provide your health care out of the goodness of their hearts, rather than charging money. I guess that's the result of growing up with National Health Service!

The Doctor asked if we had any health insurance and I had to be honest and say that no, we hadn't thought about that yet. I suddenly felt like a very poor parent, moving to a foreign country with no kind of health cover for my children. We had researched it briefly before we moved and knew that we were covered for emergencies and we had come across the statistic that 70% of people in New Zealand do not have health insurance. This reassured us somewhat and thought we would organise it when we got over here. Of course life overtakes you and its something we haven't got round to doing yet - but clearly according to this Doctor we should do something about it now!

So obviously the first thing I do is have a chat with my neighbour about it. Her summing up of the health service in New Zealand is not great - she thinks the service is shoddy and the waiting lists huge. She has spent time living in the UK and thinks the NHS is great compared to the services in New Zealand. Oh great - is my immediate reaction. I have never thought that much of the NHS, its overstretched and under resourced in my experience - so what must it be like in New Zealand!

Well luckily we are all reasonably healthy at the moment and hopefully we will stay that way - but just in case we will be researching Health Insurance Policies this weekend!

The biggest news in the Brunt household this week is the arrival of the much awaited new mattress for our bed. We have been sleeping on inflatable mattresses and a futon for the last 4 months - so our first night in a proper bed was bliss! So yes Mum and Dad - you will have a very comfy bed to sleep on when you come to visit - we won't be giving you the futon, no matter how much my husband protests!


  1. I agree that the NZ health service is overstretched. Maybe it's not too shoddy for a small country. NZ residents do make a small payment after a doctor's visit. You will pay more if you are not a resident. If you do have private health insurance, you probably still will have the same doctors treating you. I'm not sure if private health insurance helps with your priority on a waiting list.

  2. We couldn't decide whether to get insurance either. We talked to our doctor who said he didn't have insurance, and that he wasn't sure if it was worth it. People in NZ are covered by the ACC in event of an accident, and he said you would still get care if you got really sick - eg, cancer or heart attack. And that for elective surgeries or specialists, it may be better to pay up occasionally if you want to get care faster than pay insurance all the time. Also, my husband has diabetes and I have arthritis, my son has serious allergies and asthma, and we would not be covered for those as they were pre-existing conditions.
    So in the end, we've chosen to wing it and have been fairly happy with that. You're right though, GP visits are expensive, and it's amazing to us to be able to get appointments on the same day!

  3. Thanks for both of your comments. I have been pricing up the various options and its not that cheap so it might have to wait until I go back to work. Interesting that your Doctor gave a completely different viewpoint to mine MrsDesperate. I think we will be winging it for a while as well!