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Navigating the Australian Healthcare System


So you have recently been diagnosed with Superficial siderosis, what is your next step?

What you do now really depends on who diagnosed you. Either due to an existing concern or because you are still looking for definitive answers, you were probably diagnosed by a specialist such as an ENT or an Audiologist. . Either way, your next step is to find a neurologist to help treat you.

In Australia, we are lucky enough to have the choice of going through either the private health care system or the public one. You can change at any time between public and private, depending on what’s best for you, but there are a few factors to take into consideration.

Public Hospital System

Australia’s public health system is government-owned and usually provided free of charge via the Medicare system. To be eligible for Medicare, you must be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident. When you work, a portion of your taxes goes towards funding Medicare. It pays for you to be a public patient in a public hospital. Access to some specialists and tests will be free of charge or a minimal cost.

To access a specialist such as a neurologist through the public system, your GP(general practitioner) will fax a referral letter to the relevant public hospital (usually your closest one) requesting your admission to their outpatients or specialists clinics. You will be contacted, usually within 90 days, with an appointment date. On the day of your appointment, you see the specialist assigned your file; therefore, you may see a different doctor each time you go. You have no choice in doctors. The specialist will report back to your GP, outlining their findings and recommended treatment plans. Your GP will manage your treatment, as advised by the specialist. Your GP remains your contact person should you have any queries regarding treatment, in between further specialist appointments.

Private Health System

Everyone has access to the Australian private health system; however, as it is privately owned, it is a user-pays system. You may have private health insurance which can help you with the cost; however, it is not a requirement. Accessing a specialist through the private health system also requires a referral from your GP, but you can request a referral to a specific specialist if you know their name. If you do not know who you wish to see, you may be given several options.

You will then choose who you wish to see. I suggest taking into account the location, cost, subspecialty etc. The wait time is generally less than that of the public system. Your GP will give you a referral letter to bring to your appointment at the clinic or rooms of the specialist. You will be allowed a longer appointment for your initial consultation. Payment is required at the time of consultation.

Medicare may reimburse a portion of the cost. Private health insurance will not cover charges unless you have been admitted to hospital and are seeing the specialist as an inpatient. The cost will depend on the specialist, but fees of between $200 and $400 for an initial consultation are usual, with subsequent appointments generally around the $200 mark.

Your specialist will discuss their findings and treatment options with you and also write a report back to your GP. Should you have queries regarding your treatment in between appointments, your GP is again your first point of call; however, you are usually able to contact your specialist via their clinic.

Contact Fiona for information on finding Superficial siderosis care in Australia. Email: info.au@ssra.livingwithss.com

Read about Australian SSRA Ambassador Fiona Parkinson’s Superficial Siderosis journey here.

Visit the Superficial Siderosis Research Alliance Australian Facebook Page

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