Doctor and activist

Dealing with Centrelink 13/6/19

I am continually appalled by Centrelink’s callous incompetence. It usually does not affect me personally, but this week it did. One of my patients, who has not been able to work for over 4 years since a bad car accident and urgent neck neurosurgery came in for a SU415 certificate so that he could get a Disability Support Pension, which he obviously needs.

He had been given the number SU415 and told to get it filled in by his doctor. It was an 11 page online form with a lot of repetitive questions, nit picking details of dates and scans. Going through his hefty file with the interpreter took an hour and half to fill it in, by which time it was after 5pm. I was then unable to save, copy, upload, download or print the online form. It had no option except ‘Done’ and when this was pressed it told me that it was saved and that I could use it when I had signed up to PDF Filler. I did not want to have to buy software to fill in a government form. I tried to call Centrelink but after 5 pm it is a recorded message, so I had to apologise to the man and come back the next day to try again. Amazingly the form was still there and came up as I logged in. So I called the number on the form and was put through to the Medicare section of the Dept of Health and Human Services. No, they could not help I needed the Disability Section. They gave me the number in case I was cut off and said that they would put me through. As I was on hold the computer voice told me that I could access all I needed on their wonderful website and that if I displayed any anger or hostility my call would be immediately terminated. I had been on the line for a total of an hour and twenty minutes before a person actually spoke to me from the relevant section. As expected, no, she did not know about the problem of having to buy 3rd party software and no she could not fix this. I had anticipated this so I had spent the hour writing down all my findings by hand so that I could rewrite them into a version that I had discovered was on the Medical Director practice software. I asked if the call had been recorded and when she said Yes I said that it was not her fault but Centrelink was the most callous and incompetent department I had ever had the misfortune to deal with and would she please take this recording to her boss and tell him that I will write to the Minister and tell ?him that he is doing an extremely bad job. The total time to fill in this form had been an hour and half for the form, half an hour to try to upload it to Centrelink and an hour and twenty minutes to try again on the phone. Total- around three hours and twenty minutes for a form. Centrelink wants me to put it down as a long consultation- $61. I could have just printed off a blank one and copied it off the screen and not bothered calling them etc but why we have to work around a system that presumably mucks everyone around the same way is not answered. My partner says to charge the patient $200 as they always pay- they have to- they need the pension. But it sticks in my craw to charge a man who is already in pain, unemployed and unemployable, whose wife left him in consequence, who is totally depressed and cannot afford his rent.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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