Log Splitter – 1, Walrus – 0 and Comment On Health Care.

Australian “Fiddleback” red gum timber is very hard, brittle and has a beautiful convoluted grain similar to Walnut burl. It is also excellent winter fuel, burning very hot and leaving very little ash. This is why my stepson and I were using my 40 ton hydraulic splitter to convert a few old logs into firewood on Sunday.

We had a good working rhythm going – me feeding and stepson working the actuator and clearing when we struck a particularly hard and knotted block with no obvious fault line. In about a second, I heard and saw the machine load up as it tried to cleave the timber before the block shattered, firing a high velocity baseball sized chunk that hit my left hand. Not being one to waste an opportunity, I though it may be useful to the occasional Turcopoliere debate on healthcare to catalogue the full costs and operation of our healthcare system as it applies to my case for perhaps future reference.

It was obvious from the pain and new shape of my left thumb that I was in trouble so we made plans to head for the city on Monday morning to seek a specialist. It’s a three hour drive and there was no point in consulting a local doctor who was only going to direct me to a city specialist anyway.

I had a name of a specialist orthopedic hand surgeon by Sunday night and I rang his office at 8.00am while we were halfway there. His office told us to keep coming and he would fit me in to his consulting schedule. We arrived 10.00 am at Cabrini Malvern, a major private hospital. I was x-rayed 10.15 am and by 11.00 I was on the specialists surgery list for Thursday. I have broken the top joint of my thumb into three pieces. The plan is for these to be screwed back together with tiny titanium screws and plates or, if that isn’t practical, he will use wires although that will require another operation later.

This is typically a day procedure assuming no complications, it requires an anesthetist and assistant surgeon. As always there are risks which I prefer not to think about. I am told that I will be good in six weeks but that full use will take six months or so.

We have private health insurance costing the pair of us about A$6000 per year in total.

Costs so far: X rays – free (I have a concession card due to age)

First Consultation – free (covered by Medicare)

Temporary custom made splint/orthotic – $150

Drugs – Paracetamol / Codeine pain relief – $6.00

Hospital bed – free (covered by health insurance)

I will hopefullly report after surgery.

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9 Responses to Log Splitter – 1, Walrus – 0 and Comment On Health Care.

  1. English Outsider says:

    Ouch! Hope it’s not too painful. My first thought was, lucky it didn’t get an eye.

    I’ve never used such a machine. My log splitter is a cone with a screw thread and a vicious point to it. Goes on the back of the tractor and I never let anyone else near it. Useful for splitting fence posts off a trunk. It bucks a bit quite often. After reading your account I shall probably go back to using wedges.

    None of that would have cost me anything in England except the drugs. And not those if they were were given in hospital. Going private, if I were to stay in, would get me better accomodation and faster treatment but for the operation I’d probably still get the same surgeon. If I didn’t, all the NHS ones I’ve met or heard of are red hot anyway.
    The health cover you’re getting, which sounds very good, would cost around three and a half thousand pounds in England. Cheap at the price but scale it up to a family …

    • Ghost Ship says:

      Serious acute cases are dealt with just as quickly on the NHS as privately. A few years back, I had a thoracic aortic aneurysm down in Plymouth, Devon. I arrived at the hospital at about 5am on a Saturday morning and I was in surgery for a ten hour operation by 8am. The advantage of the NHS after major surgery is that the medical staff are available on call at all times whereas there is as far as I know no obligation on private hospitals to provide out of hours cover beyond a single junior doctor. If a private hospital does have a problem after surgery it just calls the NHS.
      One evening while recovering my blood pressure disappeared, the nurse doing the final check couldn’t detect it so on-call support was called in. That evening the lead on-call (Army) doctor turned up with his (Royal Marine, I think) sidekick in full dress uniform (Derriford Hospital is a joint civilian/military hospital) as it was “mess night”. My cardiologist was a Squadron Leader who went on to become a Wing Commander. The amazing surgeon who operated on me was just a plain old Mister.

  2. English Outsider says:

    Might I put in a correction?

    £1750! Unbelievably cheap and not too bad for a family. Still out of reach for a fair proportion of the population. My solution is to reduce the income gap – President Trump had a recipe for that, I thought – and let everyone pay their way. More agreeable to buy than get given.

  3. Fred says:

    “free” You mean to tell us the people taking the X-ray are paid zero, the consulting physiciain was paid zero; oh, sorry, other people paid those bills. Where did those paying the bills get the money, other than the one paid by insurance premiums?

    Good luck on the surgery. Hope you don’t get a ranch visit from Australia’s version of OSHA.

    BTW what is the association with Cabrini Health Australia, which is “Catholic, not-for-profit provider of health and health related services inspired by the missionary vision of the Cabrini Sisters.” according their website(Cabrini Health Australia)? I ask since the picture of “Cabrini Malvern” Shows a big walkway to the St. F X Cabrini Hospital right next door. “major private hospital.” doesn’t seem like a fitting description of the facility.

    • walrus says:

      Fred, it’s covered by insurance premiums and/or the medicare tax levy we all pay. Cabrini is a distributed hospital not a teaching hospital.

      I am currently waiting to go up to surgery.

  4. Leith says:

    Six bucks for tylenol with codeine is a good price, about 40% of the average price here.

  5. Deap says:

    Did they offer a local anesthetic to do this surgery on such a a limited area – tip of thumb? Why require a general with all the downsides and costs it entails? That was perhaps more a doctor convenience rather than a patent necessity.

    Best wishes for a successful surgery and what may be a lengthy post physical therapy recovery time if there is any tendon repair. Been there, done that myself. Twice. Thanks for telling your story. A real “first hand” account, you might say.

    • walrus says:


      limited area? Local anaesthetic? Wish it was. The x-ray shows its broken into three pieces and dislocated. No hope of manipulating it better.

      Screws plates and/or wires.

  6. james says:

    i hope all is well walrus… aussie health care looks impressive.. thanks for the story!

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