Monday, September 26, 2011

Health Matters 2

The most worrying and complicated thing about moving from Australia to New Zealand has been Health Costs. When I previously visited New Zealand, I took out travel insurance and I usually take it out now when I return to Australia although last year I found it cheaper to take out world wide insurance for 12 months but that has now run out and, as I do not plan to travel anywhere other than Australia for the next year, I have not renewed it.

However both Australia and New Zealand provide reciprocal medical facilities for each others citizens. My main worry would be the need to be medically evacuated home.
I discovered that once I could prove my intention to reside permanently in New Zealand (either after 2 years or, in my case,  purchasing a home) I was entitled to the same medical benefits as any New Zealander.  But there are differences.

The good side is medical prescriptions. In Australia a prescription medicine usually costs $34. 20 and if one is on long term medicine eg blood pressure, you visit the doctor every 6 months and receive a prescription with 5 repeats each costing $34.20.
When I became an aged pensioner the cost went down to $5.60.  There is a safety net but you need to have more than about 52 prescriptions in a year before that applies.

In New Zealand a prescription costs just $3 and while you must visit the doctor every 3 months each prescription covers 3 months supply. I take 2 blood pressure tablets each day and one for cholesterol. These cost me a total of $3 per month in New Zealand while in Australia they would now cost me $17.40 and were $102.60 before I reached age 65. Strangely a prescription from a specialist (eg the antibiotics after today's surgery) costs $15.

Visiting a General Practitioner (family doctor/primary health care) is more complicated. In Australia the visit may be over $40 but you take the receipt to Medicare (paid for in a tax surcharge) and receive just under $30 refund. Some Medical clinics bulk bill, ie you pay nothing, just sign a form and they collect the refund. Usually such clinics charge after hours or if you make an appointment rather than just turn up and wait. It is not allowed to insure for primary health cover.

In New Zealand the charge may also be $40 - $50 but, after you register with a medical clinic, it is reduced to $25 for a visit. You can take out insurance at a very high cost. There are safety nets for high users.

Specialists in Australia are similar to General Practitioners, you pay the bill and go to Medicare for a refund. It depends on the specialist as to how much they charge over the Medicare amount. To gain a refund you must have a referral from a General Practitioner.

In New Zealand the Specialist is free if you are referred by a GP and are prepared to wait (unless it is urgent). You can avoid waiting by going to a private specialist (as I did with my skin cancers) but then you must pay.  Similarly with hospitals.

In Australia I had Private Health Insurance. As I had been insured since starting work, I was fully covered. The government paid 30% of the cost and besides hospital procedures I was covered (with limits)  for physiotherapy, prescription glasses, dentists etc. The insurer is not allowed to vary the cost as you age (except by regulated cost of living amounts).

I have just looked into private health insurance in New Zealand. After over a month of forms and inquiries to my GP, I was offered insurance at much the same price as in Australia but it only covered hospitals and had so many exceptions, based on my medical history, it was not worth it.  It would also increase as I got older. My main worry is non urgent items such as joint replacements. I will either have to wait or if it is too painful try to find the money. As I already have arthritis the insurer would not cover me.

In Australia I paid $250 (the agreed excess) for my one stay in hospital for back surgery in 2003. In 2006 I attended the hospital with chest pain (and was told my likelihood of a heart attack was almost nil) and agreed to be treated as a private patient. I therefore received a newspaper in the morning and a taxi voucher back to the railway station.

New Zealand does have an excellent accident cover although some people do not think so. You cannot sue anyone for compensation. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), paid for by employers and car registration, helps to pay for the cost of injuries from work, home and sports or other leisure activities. 

Ambulance cover is subsidised but I have joined the Ambulance service for $35 per year and so it will be free.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Health Matters 1

A. There was a wonderful conclusion to our service this morning.  A few weeks ago I first noticed a lady who had great difficulty making it up the aisle to communion. She was using crutches. My friends told me it was wonderful to see her in church at all as she had suffered from a brain tumour.  It was removed then regrew, needing a second operation.  At one stage she lost the ability to speak and was completely incapacitated.  She lost her hair due to radiation therapy and apparently it is regrowing a different colour.  I recognised her husband but not her.

Today, after the vicar made the usual announcements, she stood and, in tears, told us her oncologist has declared her completely free of cancer. Her husband then thanked the congregation for all their prayers. We erupted in spontaneous applause. The vicar said he felt he should pray but noted the final hymn was more appropriate so we sang 'All hail the power of Jesus' name'.

B. Birdie, my friend in Indianapolis with breast cancer reported that at the beginning of her second chemotherapy treatment they told her the tumours had already shrunk noticeably. She has lost her hair and now has a cold which does not help.  Her third chemo dose is on Monday so continued prayer please.

C. Far far less important, I had my yearly skin cancer checkup back in late July.  The (seemingly very young) doctor took  4 biopsies. Two were nothing but there was a squamous cell cancer on my upper arm and a basal cell cancer on my back, I had a basal cancer on my forehead two years ago which was far more unpleasant.  The cancers were cut out 3 weeks ago after I returned from my visit to Australia.  I was looking forward to the stitches being removed last Tuesday when the doctor rang me on Monday to say the pathology showed he had not removed all of the basal cancer from my back, it had longer roots than normal.  So now I have to undergo the surgery again tomorrow. My main annoyance is that it will further delay my garden renovation.  I have been madly spreading top soil and bark in cold rain yesterday and even snow today as I will not be able to lift anything too heavy again for the next 10 days.  And then there is the additional cost.  I will have spent over $2000 on the whole sorry saga.  In Australia I would have got half to two- thirds back from Medicare.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mixed News from New Zealand

First the good news.
The Diocese of Dunedin has rejected the Covenant. I learned this from Bishop Kelvin's blog but it is now on Taonga as well. Bishop Kelvin writes "We discussed the Anglican Covenant and agreed with the suspicion of clause 4 which seems to be current in most of the New Zealand Anglican Church. By a reasonably large majority we do not want our church to subscribe to it."

I do not understand the implications of another vote.
There was "a motion asking us to accept that people in such relationships (same sex)  should not be denied ordination because of those relationships"..."In the end, an amendment was proposed which affirmed that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination, but which removed any reference to relationships." Bishop Kelvin thinks this is "the situation which has been the case in the Anglican Church for many years." I am not so sure, it depends in which part of the Anglican Church one resides and I do not believe it solves anything.

However the bad news is that the Diocese of Wellington has supported all four sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant. The bishop spoke in favour and the vote (only taken on section 4) was
Clergy : 63 for; 41 against.
Laity : 52 for; 44 against.

This is disappointing.  They state "We must preserve unity, and the Covenant will help us do that. And we don't want to find ourselves no longer in full communion because we have not signed the Covenant".
I think they are namby pamby and lily-livered. They want to remain in communion even if it is wrong.  New Zealand might end up in full communion with the homophobic dioceses but out of communion with TEC and Canada.

I  am definite on this:
If the Province signs up to the covenant, I will be disappointed. But if the covenant members then eject TEC and/or Canada, I will remove myself from the parish and not enter and Anglican Church in New Zealand again.

We wait on the other dioceses Three Maori and three Pakeha plus the diocese of Polynesia.
I know the Diocese of Christchurch has postponed a vote until next year. They had more important matters to consider.  The Diocese of Nelson had their synod in August but there is nothing reportd however it is the evangelical diocese and already has  statement condemning same sex marriage. The Diocese of Waikato/Taranaki had their synod last week but there is no news yet.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Go Auckland

I am indebted to Fr Bosco Peters at Liturgy for the following wonderful news.
First we learnt that the Auckland Diocese had rejected the Anglican covenant or at least Clause 4.2.
Now comes the (for me) much greater news,  that the Diocese has passed a motion which allows for persons in committed same-sex relationships to be considered for ordination.

The Bishop of Auckland, Bp Ross Bay, indicated in his charge that he was not opposed to ordinations of people in a committed same-sex relationship.
Then the synod passed the following motion.

That this synod:
(1) holds that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to the discernment, ordination and licensing of gay and lesbian members to any lay and ordained offices of the church; and further
(2) holds that persons in committed same-sex relationships likewise should not be excluded from being considered for discernment, ordination and licensing to any lay and ordained offices of the church.
(3) commits to an intentional process of listening to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, organised by the Archdeacons in consultation with the gay and lesbian community;
(4) commits to an ongoing process of discussion within the ministry units, asks the Archdeacons to facilitate this, and invites responses to those discussions to be submitted to Diocesan Council by 31 March 2012; and
(5) commits to support the process and work of the Commission to be appointed by General Synod Standing Committee as resolved at its meeting in July 2011.
This motion was put in parts, and members voted via a paper ballot. The most contentious clause, (2), passed by nearly a two-thirds majority.

The previous Bishop of Dunedin, Bishop George Connor ordained Rev Juan Kinnear, a man in a same-sex partnership who is now an associate priest in our cathedral.  I know the present bishop, from his sermons while a vicar,  has no personal opposition but worries about the divisions that might result, sort of the 'weaker brethren' argument.    The bishop of Waiapu centred on Napier, Bishop David Rice, was Dean of Dunedin cathedral at the time of Juan Kinnear's ordination and defended the ordination to the press.

There was strenuous opposition from one parish within Dunedin.  It is obviously a parish I have no intention of ever visiting.

However this leadership by Auckland, the largest diocese in new Zealand is great news, may it lead to further developments within the Province.

Thanks to Rev'd Stephen Donald for this information

The Waiapu Diocesan Synod has affirmed that sexual orientation is no barrier to ordination, and is asking for a liturgy to bless same-sex relationships.
The full motion is:
Given that Waiapu has followed a policy of sexual orientation not being a barrier to ordination; and given that there is not and has not been an agreed "moratorium" on ordinations of those in same-sex relationships;
a) this Synod affirms that sexual orientation is not a barrier to ordination, and
b) this Synod asks General Synod to move forward with the provision of an authorised liturgy for the blessing of same sex relationships to be adopted by dioceses who wish to do so.

They have apparently also rejected the Anglican Covenant 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Victorian Holiday

As mentioned, the shuttle bus easily made it to my house on the Wednesday morning after the heavy snowfall. The main road up to my hillside suburb was cleared to 2 lanes on Tuesday.  I photographed people tobogganing on it the day before. The next street was cleared for one lane but my street was ignored. However I saw people in 2WD leaving for work that morning. There were still snow showers but I had also cleared my front path so I could wheel my bag up to the gate.  The planes were flying and mine was just 25 minutes late but I had a 4 hour layover in Auckland anyway.

I had wanted to visit a close friend the next day. He is always busy with children and grandchildren and left with his wife on a tour of Turkey, Greece and Croatia the following week. He suggested I stay with them the first night.  He met me at the station which is the end of the line that goes through the airport (or rather under it).  However I was very tired by the time we retired for bed, it being 2 hours later back in Dunedin.

On Thursday I went back under the airport and through the city to my sister's home in time for lunch.
On Friday I was back at the main city train terminal for the 8am train to Melbourne.  An elderly lady sat next to me from Moss Vale to Cootamundra (about 10am to 1pm) then a young man took the seat.  After a little while he must have noticed that the lady across the aisle was reading a history of New Zealand (she was doing a PhD on timber cutting).  He asked her about it and said, while he lived in Melbourne, he was a Kiwi and, when I asked, he said he had lived until the beginning of this year in Dunedin and just graduated from the University of Otago.  Life has such strange coincidences.

I spent the weekend in Melbourne. I have been there quite often so walked around the gardens, travelled on the trams and trains including out to the bayside suburbs and attended Choral Eucharist at the cathedral.

On Monday I went by train to Ballarat (population 96,000) and on Wednesday by bus to Bendigo (92,000) then back to Melbourne by train on Thursday before catching the overnight train to Sydney.
Cobb & Co Coach at Sovereign Hill

Miner's Camp, Sovereign Hill

Sovereign Hill Mine

Chinese Store, Sovereign Hill

     I visited Ballarat and Bendigo in 1987.  They are the 3rd and 4th cities in size in Victoria and were important gold rush cities in the 1850's.
I knew Ballarat had some important museums so decided to stay 2 nights there and 1 in Bendigo. However I much preferred Bendigo as a city.

My motel in Ballarat was near Sovereign Hill, an open air museum with over 60 buildings recreated as they would have been in the mining era of the 1850s. Gold was discovered nearby in 1851 and the 2nd largest nugget in the world (the Welcome Nugget weighing 69 kg,(2,200 ounces) and containing 99% pure gold was found in 1858.

I wandered around the Chinese village, went down a mine, saw gold being poured, no samples given out, rock being crushed by stampers and went through miners' houses and typical shops. I did not try gold panning and all I bought was some boiled lollies which I gave to my sister but she did let me have about 3 or 4.  It was much the same as I remember back in 1987 but some exhibits have now made use of modern technology.

On Tuesday morning I went to the Gold Museum opposite which did not exist on my first visit. In a modern building it had lots of information about Ballarat and gold mining and the uses of gold throughout history.
I decided to walk into town with a detour to the Eureka Stockade. Again I had visited in 1987 but I did not do my homework.  It was closed for major renovations so all  I achieved was a blister on my toe.

Back in town, after some much needed coffee, I caught a bus to Lake Wendouree.  I found, as a senior citizen, I could get an all day bus pass for about $1.50 so even less need for that blister.  The lakeside was very pleasant and the botanical gardens were picturesque although it was a little early, spring had not really sprung as yet.  Flowering trees became more obvious the next day as I travelled to Bendigo which is 200 metres lower.  I was pleased to discover the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War memorial which has all their names engraved.
Ducks on Lake Wendouree

Botanical Gardens, Ballarat

Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

       In Bendigo I had a tour of a mine which only closed in 1954. The 75 minute tour took us 61 metres below the surface. There is a longer tour which goes down over 200 metres and you experience actual mining. As the guide said,  you pay to experience hard work. I think I am past that now.

The ticket also gave me an hour ride on the so-called "talking tram" through the city  but it was getting late and I decided to leave it until the next day, also visit the Chinese migration museum and garden as well as  follow a walking guide brochure to see the many old buildings in the city.  It meant I would get to Melbourne only a few hours before my overnight train left but as the weather forecast was good, I thought that would be better as I had only planned museum visits in Melbourne which, hopefully, I will visit again anyway.
Bendigo Talking Tram
Chinese Gardens Bendigo

Town Hall Bendigo

Impressive Catholic Cathedral, Bendigo

Not so impressive Anglican Cathedral, Bendigo

The train left Melbourne on time but came to a halt in less than an hour and we were informed there had been a fatality ahead, not our train.  We sat in one spot for over 3 hours but thankfully I had a sleeper so went to bed. I woke when the train started moving but did not look at my watch but we arrived in Sydney at 10.30am instead of 7am as timetabled. However breakfast was served about 7am instead of the planned 5.30am.

So again I had a shortened time with my sister before heading off for the reunion that had been the main reason for my Aussie visit.  I will leave that for a later post.
Building, Bendigo

Buildings, Bendigo

Buildings, Bendigo

Building, Bendigo

Building, Bendigo
Garden, Bendigo

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Prayer please

I managed to get out of Dunedin 2 weeks ago despite the snow. I will blog about my Australian experiences later but more important is to ask for prayers for a fellow blogger, Birdie. 

Birdie blogs at Strelizia and I had the greatest pleasure in meeting her in Chicago nearly a year ago. We had a fun time driving down Michigan Avenue in her convertible and then cruising on the lake before lots of chat over lunch and finally being trapped in the lift, thankfully not for long, at the carpark.  Her efforts to develop gay acceptance in her Presbyterian church leave me full of admiration. I met Birdie on the Brokeback Mountain site and I do not think she frequents the Anglican/Episcopalian blogs that I mainly visit.

Birdie lives in Indianapolis and, after hearing of the stand collapse at a Fair in that city, I contacted her and her reply was that while she was not at the fair she was waiting to learn about a lump on her breast. The following week the news first got worse as she learned it was cancer and it was invasive but then thankfully some good news that it had not spread.
However Birdie begins the first of several chemotherapy treatments this week and faces a mastectomy around Christmas time.
Please pray for her, her family and close by friends as they support her, and the medical staff as they make all the decisions they make about her treatment.

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your servant Birdie., and give your power of healing to those who minister to her needs, that she may be strengthened in her weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.