Many of our neurosurgery and spinal patients ask us this question. So here it is in a nutshell... Please note the below comparison is a direct reflection of our experience with the public hospital system in Sydney. We can't speak for other surgical practices.
Private Hospital Patient
- Choice of surgeon
- Spinal surgery done in a private hospital
- Patient has the surgery done within a few weeks
- Surgeon will keep patient in hospital 5-7 days
- Private room when available
- Follow up with surgeon in private rooms
- Out of pocket expenses and health fund costs
Public Hospital Patient
- No say in which surgeon performs the surgery (often a junior surgeon)
- Operation done in a public hospital
- Patient is on the waiting list for an average of 18 months +
- Public patients are regularly "bumped" from the operating list at the last minute for an emergency
- Shared accommodation
- Patient is sent home a lot sooner and seen by a Community Nurse
- Costs are all covered by Medicare
There are several differences but the biggest one is that if you are a private patient you get to choose your surgeon and have a lot more control over when your operation is. You can discuss with your surgeon when is convenient to have your operation. If you are choosing your own surgeon you are able to choose a Senior Consultant Surgeon who has the wealth of experience necessary for a complicated spinal operation. If going through the public hospital system you may see one surgeon beforehand and feel very comfortable with him or her and then on the day of surgery a completely different surgeon performs the surgery. This undue stress of a new or unknown surgeon hours before your surgery can be detrimental to your recovery time, as major surgery should not be undertaken without knowledge of your case and your comfort at heart.
Whether it is worth the cost of private health cover depends on many factors - your age, family medical history, your profession/vocation and budget. For example, if you have a family history of osteoporosis and work in an office environment, you may consider the risk of future back problems too great to ignore. Similarly if you work in a job which involves extreme use of your body or puts you at risk of injury (such as a race car driver) then again, you might consider that a risk factor.
While all public hospital will cover you in an emergency and treat you in that case, any conditions that result from 'wear and tear' or misuse will generally be labelled as an 'elective' or non-emergency situation (in many cases, spinal and joint problems do fall into this category), and this is where waiting periods can be expected.
While we believe that spinal health and neurosurgery is not something to waste waiting periods on, you must speak to your GP and consult with your family before making that decision, as all cases are different. If you are in doubt and you think you might need spinal surgery or neurosurgery, ask your GP for a referral to see Dr Moloney and get a professional opinion about your condition.