The real problems with our health system
FOR years, I've suffered from chronic pain, headaches and migraines.
It all got worse after I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011.
I always thought the two were linked and that the extra pain was just part of my body screaming from the PTSD.
When the physical pain got so bad I was taking Nurofen and Panadol all day, every day, plus resorting to Panadeine Forte at least once a day, I simply thought that between the PTSD and me trying to work full-time and study part time was too much and the pain was the result of 'burning out'.
I took time off from studies to rest my body and, with time, the pain subsided.
Fast forward and I've been studying again for seven months and the chronic pain has started to return. I'm not yet at the level of taking pain meds daily, but it is causing more headaches and migraines again.
The difference this time is a new GP.
My old GP had to retire a few years back due to his own health woes.
This was when all this pain was a problem.
I can't recall the number of GPs I visited looking for prescriptions for heavy pain killers to deal with my chronic pain, headaches and migraines.
It took me two years to find one that didn't automatically treat me like a 'druggie looking for a fix'.
Not only does the new GP treat me the respect and dignity every patient deserves in the early stages, but this GP is actually trying to help me find medication that works and is not viewed as addictive.
Plus, he has diagnosed the pain, headaches and migraines as Fibromyalgia - a medical problem that can not be proven or disproven with current medical test - but is an array of multiple symptoms seen in a person at the same time.
Many people suffering from this disorder report struggling to find GPs who will diagnose Fibromyalgia due to the issue of not being able to test for it and many still don't accept it as a medical diagnoses.
They also report struggling to find GPs who have any idea how to treat it, other than prescribing pain medication - and especially a problem since the Therapeutic Goods Administration rescheduled Panadeine Forte and other low codeine pain-relievers to making them prescription only medications and causing fear among GPs that they would be reprimanded for prescribing this medication.
Now chronic pain suffers with a wide range of disorders are in more pain than ever. And many GPs treat those who go looking for a new doctor who isn't scared to write such a prescription as drug addicts.
While I did have these problems, I am relieved I now have a GP who not only doesn't treat me like a drug addict, but is also working with me to find medications that work - and work better than those I've been taking for years.
Already, I've switched migraine medications which now - if they are going to work (and that's the normal situation with migraine medications - they don't always work) - they kick in within 10 minutes of taking. I also don't need water to swallow a tablet - meaning I can take the medication straight away, on the go - not having to wait until I'm home or the office where I can access water.
The latest step has been to put me on daily medication to decrease the pain from the Fibromyalgia. I'll let you know how that goes in the months to come once I've been able to assess its impact.
But there's one more issue that needs to aired before I wrap up this opinion piece - and that is overworked, mentally exhausted GPs.
Is one of the problems with GPs not having the patience and empathy to treat each new patient as a sick person rather than a drug addict (as chronic pain suffers have experienced) part of these health practitioners having too many people coming to them, asking for addictive drugs?
Or are they simply exhausted, reducing their patience and empathy levels, and in need of treatment for their own medical and mental health issues?
"In Western Australia, a health practitioner can see a GP or psychiatrist and get help for their condition without fear of being reported to the regulators," AMA Queensland President Dr Bill Boyd explained.
With doctors and other health workers showing the highest suicide rate in Australia's white-collar workforce, Dr Boyd said it was time to provide a safe and confidential environment for doctors to seek help for their own mental health conditions.
AMA Queensland members on Friday put their weight behind a push for Council Of Australian Governments to adopt a national system for mandatory reporting.
AMA Queensland has long advocated for a change to the state's mandatory reporting laws, beginning with the release of Part Two of its Health Vision in 2015, advocating for Queensland to introduce WA's exemption to mandatory reporting laws.
"Many doctors know a colleague who has attempted or committed suicide," Dr Boyd said. "It's shocking and young doctors are particularly at risk.
"The current mandatory reporting laws discourage doctors from seeking treatment for a mental health condition because they worry about the effect on their medical registration and ruining their career.
"We must make it easier and more acceptable for health professionals to seek care for their own health."
"The WA system has proven it works and now it's time for the rest of the country to follow suit.
"We need a national system that encourage doctors to seek support and ensures patients are kept safe.
"Having healthy doctors leads to healthier patients."