Crohn's Disease Forum » General IBD Discussion » Australian Medicare and Crohn's Disease surgery

08-19-2010, 04:16 AM   #1
New Member
Join Date: Aug 2010
Australian Medicare and Crohn's Disease surgery

Hi. I'm an Australian currently living and working in Japan.

I've just been diagnosed with Crohn's. It's all been very sudden. A week ago, I had very few symptoms and thought I was pretty healthy. I went to the hospital for a checkup and the doctor found evidence of IBD. He sent me to a specialist who gave me an endoscopy and 2 colonoscopys (both completely unsedated - not a very pleasant experience). He found ulcers in my large intestine and 2 fistulas. One is a perianal fistula that I was previously aware of, and another is a fistula between the ileum and the colon (sigmoid colon, I believe). Neither are really causing problems at the moment, and as I said, I have very mild symptoms (a little gas and some diarrhea). However, the specialist stressed that I should get them treated as soon as possible and told me that it would require 2 to 3 months of surgery, hospitalisation etc.

I really don't want to do this in Japan, and I would much rather go home to have it done. Unfortunately, I don't have private health insurance in Australia, though I am still eligible for Medicare benefits.

I was hoping to get some advice from Australians who are dealing with Crohn's on Medicare. I was hoping that I could come home, have surgery, and be back to work in Japan in a few months. However, I have heard horror stories about long waiting times for surgery for people without private healthcare.

Anyone have a similar experience? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
08-19-2010, 05:03 AM   #2
Super Moderator
DustyKat's Avatar
Join Date: May 2010
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Hi JWJ and

My daughter has had all her treatments under the public system. Unfortunately I can't speak as to surgery times as hers was done as an emergency. Her waiting time to see a new GI in Sydney, moved from a regional area, was surprisingly quick, from the time of referral to an appointment was 3 weeks. She recently had to see a neurologist and again waited about 3 weeks for an appointment, this was at a outpatient clinic, and had a follow up one month later. She had an MRI and EEG x2 done at the hospital and was able to have them scheduled within that one month period between specialist visits.

Maybe put some feelers out before you plan on leaving Japan. Suss out different specialists and find out the waiting times, explain your situation and see if they can accommodate you sooner if need be. I'm assuming you have family here, if so they could perhaps do this for you.

Mum of 2 kids with Crohn's.
08-19-2010, 05:24 AM   #3
New Member
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: South Australia, Australia

My Support Groups:
I have had many surgeries for my perianal fistula all done on Medicare, most of them have been in my small town and were urgent, so they were done in a week or two. The few that I had done in Adelaide in 2005, from memory (which is a little sluggish lol) I think I had to wait 3 to 4 weeks.
Dusty, can an MRI be done on Medicare?
I hope you can get things sorted out JWJ, I agree with Dusty's tips.
Take care!
08-19-2010, 05:40 AM   #4
Super Moderator
DustyKat's Avatar
Join Date: May 2010
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Hey rena,

Yes, if it is done at a public hospital. If you have a test at a public hospital as a public patient , including if it is done as an outpatient, it is covered by Medicare (free). If you are an inpatient and the hospital is unable to do the test, like when Roo had her CT scan and the hospital didn't have a scanner ( it was a regional hospital), she had to go to a private radiology place so the hospital pays for it.

08-19-2010, 07:00 AM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2010
I was admited to my local hospital and had many tests
I needed an MRI but they didn't have one so they sent me to flinders hospital and I had it there
I never had to pay anything Inc the ambulance transfer between the hospitals
Medicare covered everything
Now on Vedolizumab MLN0002 - woohoo!! Hope this works
200mg immuran daily
1500mg mesalazine salofalk daily
Somac 40mg daily
Tried remicade and didn't work
08-20-2010, 02:59 AM   #6
New Member
Join Date: Aug 2010
Thanks for the advice everyone.

Dusty, my family is in Melbourne so I've got my parents looking into things for me. They're very understanding and will do their best to find out as much info as they can before I come home.

Part of my problem is that I don't have enough information from my specialist here in Japan. Last time I talked to him was just after a whole day of tests. I spent the morning doing an unsedated endoscopy, then spent 4 or 5 hours drinking laxative and running to the bathroom, then another half an hour or so on the table doing an unsedated colonoscopy. As you might imagine, I wasn't really in the mood for a long discussion.

My specialist basically said I need an operation and hospitalisation and that it would take two to three months. He didn't really explain what the operation would involve, how much of that time would be in hospital, how much would be at home recuperating, when I would be able to go back to work etc. I've got another appointment with him on Monday so I can get some more answers.

Unfortunately, I also have to work out what to do about my job. I don't want to quit, and it is possible that they will give me 3 or 4 months off to go home and get treated. However, I can't be sure that I can get everything done in 3 or 4 months. I have to find a specialist, probably get another bunch of tests, get the two fistulas dealt with etc. If I can't do it all within that timeframe, then there is nothing left for me to do but quit for good and come home.

Reading some of the stories on this site, it seems that fistula treatment could take just a few weeks, but could also take months or even longer. Every situation seems different.

From what my doctor said, it seems like the thing he is most concerned about is the fistula between my ileum and colon. I've been looking but haven't found many first hand accounts from people who have had treatment for this kind of fistula. I don't suppose anyone here knows of someone who has had this kind of problem?

Sigh. The most frustrating part of this whole ordeal is that I feel fine (apart from the depression that all this news has brought on). Apart from a bit of diarrhea and gas, and occasional bleeding, I feel great. No real pain, certainly never enough to need to take time off work or go to the hospital. It was mostly by chance that the doctor found out I had Crohn's and a fistula.

Anyway, it feels good to be part of a welcoming community like this, and I hope I can contribute to the forum as much as possible in the future.
08-20-2010, 05:27 AM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2009
Hi Rena,

I have found if its an emergency after being presented to the ER then obviously things will be done quickly, however I do know where I live in North Qld that if you need to get an appointment to first see a specialist and organise testing like a scope then it can be a wait of 3 months, but obviously once all that is done Im assuming based on how bad you are surgery would hopefully follow quickly.

Im not 100% sure on the wait time for surgery as I have never been in that position and I would assume it would totally depend where in Aus you live, I do know I went the private route last time as I just couldn't wait the 3 months for a scope, but I did however have private health cover.

Good luck I could think of nothing worse then being in another country dealing with this disease... All the best xxx

Crohn's Disease Forum » General IBD Discussion » Australian Medicare and Crohn's Disease surgery
Thread Tools

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:58 PM.
Copyright 2006-2017