I just read an article about a woman trapped in a public hospital trying to transfer to a private hospital for which she had full cover. I decided to write about Bill’s experience shortly before he died.

Before I do I should remind you that Nurse Ratched is Jack Nicholson’s nemesis in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey.

Bill was having the occasional emergency dash to hospital by ambulance.

He was always taken to the public ward, not the private hospital for which he had full cover.

He complained once that for 29 hours they had kept him on a sloping ironing board, poking at him every so often to see if he was (1) alive, and if so (2) awake.

The ambos were always fantastic, there are not enough superlatives to do them justice, but it was another story after he was deposited. I don’t blame the hospital system, I blame the chronic, ideological and deliberate underfunding by our egregious right-wing government, egged on by the I.P.A., Murdoch, and their henchmen, and the baying shock-jocks.

On this occasion, which turned out to be his final hospital admission, he was eventually settled into a 4-bed room. He had been through this before for short periods of time and had experienced considerable difficulty going to the toilet. His normal toilet procedure was prolonged and S.M. Herald-accompanied. His bowels could not cope with the competition so he had to wait till he was home to finally let nature take its course.

This time he was in there almost two weeks. He was in torment: his bowels protesting, his sleep reduced to almost nil. Bill suffered from insomnia at the best of times, but one of the other patients was dying and making dying noises, another snored loudly and continuously and the other one yelled all night.

Every day he would ask to be transferred to the private hospital, for which he had full cover. He would be told “no problem”. Every night he would be told it was not possible to be transferred to the private hospital the following day. One time they said it was full, other times no explanation at all. He was made an offer to be transferred to a private hospital at Liverpool, but he wanted the one about 5 minutes away from where he was in the north shore, a few suburbs away from his home in Mosman.

(More next time)