Once we landed in Sydney Australia, I was 16 weeks pregnant. For our 3 week visit to see family and friends, we also wanted to make sure that we put priority to complete our monthly appointment and ultrasound for pregnancy to ensure that the haematoma was gone.
This had been on my mind for the past few weeks and I just wanted to feel a sense of completion- knowing the haematoma was completely gone would ease my worry.
Having A Baby In Australia- How It Works
Before arriving in Australia, I had been back and forth in communication with my brother who has had two children of his own in Sydney. I asked him for advice as to how the Australian health system worked in terms of having a baby. To be honest, I had no idea.
He told me that the public health system was good and that majority of the services including the delivery of the baby was completely free. Being Australian myself, we had considered having the baby in Australia but felt that the lifestyle living in Taiwan outweighed the free perks offered in Australia.
One advice he said was to start the process of booking an ultrasound as soon as I land in Australia. He said that the public system always has long waiting lists and often, it can take up to 2-3 weeks to have an ultrasound completed. I guess this is the downside of free medical services in Australia.
In case you are unaware, Australia provides both a free public health system under Medicare and a private health care system. In the public health system, you are required to visit your local General Practitioner or GP for consultation and then receive letters of referrals for your pregnancy services including ultrasounds. The private health care system is similar however there are fewer waiting periods and there are out of pocket costs which are paid upfront.
In order to get the ultrasound completed, you need to pass through several people first, making the process long, tiring and a little frustrating. Since we were not planning to have the baby in Australia and did not want to pay ridiculous upfront fees for private services, we opted the public health system route.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Once we began the tedious process of organizing the ultrasound for pregnancy, I started to realize that free was not necessarily the best option at all. We firstly made an appointment at my usual medical center in Stocklands Whethrill Park.
We hadn’t been to the doctors for a good two years as we had been overseas for that entire time and boy things have changed. My usual doctor had left and much of the staff members were completely different. I wasn’t sure what kind of service I would receive but still, we pushed on and went with Dr. Ban (which, surprisingly had the same exact name as my previous doctor! Ultra confusing).
We came into our appointment, explained our situation (that we were in fact pregnant, having the baby overseas, had been getting care in Ecuador and that I had a haematoma that I wanted to check up on). I showed her my documents, test results and previous ultrasound photos.
She insisted that I go through the standard pregnancy blood tests even though I had already completed these in Ecuador. I complied, completing a blood test and received a letter of referral from my doctor in order to get an ultrasound done.
When I asked her for her recommendation as to where to get the ultrasound, she referred me to a private clinic in the same area but advised that I could also try the hospital down the road with the same letter if cost was a factor.
Attempt Number 1: Private Clinic 1
We decided to try the private clinic first, being the closest out of the two options after speaking to our doctor. We thought since we spent $13.00 to complete the ultrasound in Ecuador, that the cost wouldn’t be that high.
We proceeded to walk 10 minutes to the private clinic only to find out that it would cost $80.00 to complete a 10 minute ultrasound. This was far too expensive and so we decided to try our luck at the local hospital, walking another 20 minutes.
Attempt Number 2: Public Hospital
When we arrived at the public hospital, it took us a good 10 minutes to figure out the whereabouts of ultrasound ward and to speak to someone. I again, explained my situation but received an unexpected reaction. The receptionist looked at me with judging eyes and said she would have to speak to her superior about this case.
I patiently waited and after a good 10 minutes, she came back and said that the hospital is very busy and could only squeeze me in on this certain day, which was 3 days before we fly out of Sydney. I was happy to get any response and said agreed with the date suggested.
She asked for my medicare details and to fill out a form as I had never been to this particular hospital before. Just as I thought things were fine, she called me back to the desk and said that in order for the hospital to complete exactly what the doctor has advised on the letter of referral, I needed to be at least 19 weeks or more. If I was to complete it on the only date given to me, I would been 18 weeks 3 days.
She then proceeded to tell me to complete the ultrasound overseas and took back the form. I was in shock. I could understand why the public health system was busy however, to refuse to take me in at all was beyond what I expected. It made me realize that since my unique circumstance did not fit into a box that the public system follows, I end up not getting any service at all.
Attempt Number 3: Private Clinic 3
I had already given up on the idea of completing the ultrasound in Australia with the response I had been getting so far. Since we only had 2 weeks left in Australia, we didn’t want to waste more time going back and forth with these health services.
We decided to visit the doctor’s the following week to pick up the blood test results and let our doctor know what had happened and that we will complete it overseas instead as it became too much of a hassle for us to organize.
Our doctor was completely confused as to why we were rejected at the public hospital. She said that it was important to have the ultrasound in order to know whether the haematoma was still a problem and that as our doctor, she needed to know the results before we leave Australia as part of her responsibility of care.
Although we were pleased at her work ethics, we were just no having the best of luck with the public health system. Our doctor suggested to visit one private clinic that she knew of that accepts Medicare and therefore provides the ultrasound free of charge.
We were excited to finally get a recommendation from her that met our requirements. But there was a catch- the clinic was located all the way in Mount Durrit, an 1 hour train ride away one-way. This meant we would spend a good 4 hours traveling to and from, completing the ultrasound and then coming back 3 days after to pick up the results. Unlike in Ecuador where the results are given to you literally 5 minutes after your ultrasound, there is a long waiting time to get the results.
We decided that if we had to go that far, we would. We accepted a new letter of referral and left the doctors with a little bit of hope. When we called to book, they had availability straight away. The lady I spoke to confirmed it would be free but asked for further details on what the referral letter requests. She was a bit hesitant that they could complete everything the doctor had requested and said that the policy requires again for me to be at least 19 weeks pregnant but suggested I could still come in and they could see from there. We accepted and made a booking.
Attempt Number 4: Private Clinic 4
Upon speaking to our family about the situation, Albie’s mother recommended to give another private medical center that was nearby to see if they accepted Medicare for ultrasounds. I was a little hesitant but agreed. Turned out that their policy allowed free ultrasounds for women who were under 18 weeks pregnant. Because of this, I immediately booked with them and canceled my previous appointment.
A few days later, we went to this appointment only to find out the same situation as other places. We needed to be 19 weeks pregnant and that it would cost $500 to complete what the doctor had stated on the letter of referral. Needless to say, we took a step back and decided this was all too much for us. We went back to our doctor and she insisted once more, telling us to go back there and if need be, to call her directly so she could speak to them.
Connections In The Health Sector Helps!
During the weekend, we attended our friend’s wedding and shared the complicated mess of getting an ultrasound done in Australia. Thankfully, our friend was able to complete the ultrasound for us and suggested to go to her private clinic where she works. I didn’t even know she conducted ultrasounds and that they were covered by medicare if you were under 18 weeks. I ended up completing a 17 weeks pregnancy ultrasound just shy of 18 weeks.
Everything turned out fine, the haematoma was completely gone. We also managed to get a few cute pictures and a 90 percent confirmation on the gender of the baby. It was a great way to end our trip in Sydney and knowing that our baby was completely healthy, we were happy to fly to Taiwan for our next adventure.