I had a heart attack when I was just 55. It was a surprise and a shock. I'd never smoked, was not a big drinker and wasn't carrying too much weight. It was probably a genetic predisposition to heart disease. That was six years ago.
Last week I went through the annual tests and consultation with the cardiologist and was told I'm “doing very well” thanks to exercise, a supportive family and the public, universal healthcare system we have in Australia.
Correction: the public, universal healthcare system we had in Australia — unless the federal government's attack on Medicare is blocked in the Senate.
I hope some skilled researchers can estimate how many lives will be lost as a result of the $50 billion to be slashed from hospital funding over the next eight years and the imposition of a $7 “patient fee” for GP visits, which will also be charged for X-rays, scans and pathology services.
Part of this number will undoubtedly be quite a few fellow heart attack survivors.
News.com.au reported last month that within two years after a cardiac arrest “most patients have stopped taking their life saving medications, 60 per cent of smokers haven’t kicked the habit and 10,000 will have had another heart attack in Australia.” On average, 1302 of these people will die each year.
So when the Abbott government imposes fees on all the GP visits and other tests heart attack survivors have to undergo to properly follow up a heart attack, you can be sure the numbers who die because of inadequate follow-up will rise.
Abbott and the bloke with the cigar and the sneer, treasurer Joe Hockey — who was caught dancing to “The Best Day of My Life” on budget night — know full well that their decision will kill people. I'd call it “murder”.
We all have to sacrifice for the country, chants PM Abbott and his ministers. Sure, but some more than others.
The life expectancy of heart attack survivors is on average 10-15 years less than that of the general population. This is similar to the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. So you could say we'll be doing our bit for the country by not living to the foreshadowed pensionable age of 70.
For many people, the federal budget got very personal and potentially deadly.
Read all of Green Left's budget coverage
I'll probably be alright. But there will be poorer and less-supported heart attack survivors who won't. Treating their avoidable repeat heart attacks already costs about $2 billion a year. That number will go up and, as hospital funding is being cut, others will be denied services as a consequence.
Remember that Australia is one of the richest countries in the world — arguably the richest on a per capita basis. We have universal public health care that the government can afford to improve. But instead it is being destroyed to further reduce the taxes on the corporate rich.
This murderous budget should focus our minds on the great clash of interests and values that we are living through today: Our lives and a liveable environment, or their profits. That's the choice. Stand up and fight back or sit back and cop it. That's also a choice.
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