Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accidental Accidents and the ACC

This week I had that terrible experience that all parents live in fear of. The time when their children put themselves in danger and hurt themselves potentially quite badly.

Winter weather appears to have arrived this week and during a rare dry period I took A and a mate over to Plimmerton to the local play area there.

Play areas in New Zealand do differ slightly from the ones in the UK in that they can appear to be highly dangerous. They have all the spongy safety mats and bark strewn around but they also involve horizontal ladders with massive drops underneath them and wobbly rope bridges. The girls love these play areas but I have to stop myself from following them round with a safety harness and cushioned mattress.

For the first few minutes the pair ran manically up and down the slide and demanded to be pushed higher and higher on the swings. Then A decided to climb the ladder to the top of the big slide. She reached the top rung (which was as tall as me) and her foot slipped and she fell sideways hitting her head on a wooden platform on the way down. At this point my stomach feels like its jumped into my mouth and I just grabbed her and held her until she stopped yelling.

Being able to yell extremely loudly is obviously a good sign and having examined her it appears that the only obvious damage is a large expanding bump appearing on the side of her face. Head injuries always scare me and so I decided to see if I could take A to see a Doctor.
This is where the differences between health care in the UK and New Zealand really become apparent. I rang up out local Doctors Surgery and after a quick conversation, during which they assessed how urgent it was, they told me to pop down to the surgery immediately and they would have a look. In the UK when a similar thing happened we were told that if she hadn't lost consciousness she was probably OK and if we where really worried then we could go to Accident and Emergency at the local hospital, but we would probably have to wait for a few hours before being seen!
Well 20 minutes after the fall we were seen and A was thoroughly examined by our local Doctor and reassured that she hadn't broken anything and was likely to be fine. Now I realise we have to pay for this service (only $10) but I was really impressed. They filled in a form for the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) which is the sole and compulsory provider of accident insurance in New Zealand. Everyone in New Zealand is covered by the scheme on a non-fault basis so that anyone no matter how they where injured can get emergency health care and no one can sue. This is our first encounter with the scheme and it appears to provide us with a bit of security in a similar way to the NHS only just for accidental or life threatening injuries or illnesses.

It just highlighted for me the differences between health care in the UK and New Zealand. There is no massive queue in our local surgery and we are not rushed out and dealt with as soon as possible. Our Doctor always has a friendly chat and the lady on reception already knows our girls and gives them a friendly welcome when we visit. Its a whole new experience getting a caring and friendly health care service, its just a shame we have to pay for most of it!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Star Gazing in the Southern Sky.

I have been vaguely aware that the stars on the New Zealand flag represent the stars that make up the southern cross in the night sky but so far I have been unable to spot them in the actual night sky. Well, not any more!

We visited Carter Observatory today and now I feel (reasonably) confident that I could find the southern cross and even point out Orion's Belt. And even more importantly, if I suddenly find myself stranded at sea in a small boat with no navigational equipment to hand, I could find south using the direct line between the stars in the southern cross and another the bright star (which I have temporarily forgotten the name of!).
I would really recommend a visit to this observatory, it is well worth the hike to the top of the botanic gardens in Wellington. The shows in the planetarium are quite spectacular and kept my two girls amused. Ally still insisted on talking loudly throughout most of it "this isn't real is it Daddy?", "Is that spaceman cold Mummy?", "Why is she doing that Daddy?" I think she still enjoyed it, I am just not sure whether everyone else in the auditorium appreciated her constant narration.

"Dr Ally Brunt stepped into the Quantum Accelerator and was gone"
The James Cook telescope.

J and some space rocks.