Friday, 15 January 2010

The Art of Transcending Dental Dumbness

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what a fucked system we have.  My father had a landline and dialup access and he had the eternal problem of needing to phone me for tech support but not being able to get on the phone and then get online with the PC...  That was among a lot of other things that drove him mad about being on a pension.  Did I understand that?  Vaguely.

Now it's me in the Pensioner Hot Seat and I've discovered a few things:  I should be entitled to broadband access equivalent to what an average user in the city has, say something like ADSL2 or ADSL2+.  Not a chance out here, it's ADSL vanilla all the way, and also no suitable phone line.  When I contacted Mr Conroy's office (it's one of his portfolio tasks) I was told that I couldn't have satellite because I have a bus and that is not classed as a fixed dwelling, and am renting a cottage which is not mine to ask for broadband for.  Fucked either way.

I said well how about a USB stick modem and mobile broadband access then?  "Oh no, the department is only set to handle giving out satellite broadband systems."  WTF?  I mean, WTF?  I mean OMGWTFBBQsauceandfuckingassholes...  A $130 USB device and a contribution of $20/mth would see me with comparable access, whereas to do the same thing with satellite would cost that (estimated) seven grand plus some horrific installation fee plus about a $100/mth contribution would be needed in that latter case.

I then had a need to call a support organisation for something.  The person I spoke to snapped out a 1800 number at me, I tried ringing it - and ran out of credit on my mobile.  So I tried Skype - and ran out of credit on that too...  Oh yeah - says right here that fees are applicable to mobile phones, and I've since discovered that Skype and other VOIP services are charged premium rates by Telstra to access 1800 and 1300 numbers.  THAT works for a pensioner with only VOIP or mobile!

And I got given an increase in my pension, good on you Mr Rudd!  Pity the price of electricity has gone up by more than that...  I'm back to worse off again.  So - no solar rebate or any way of getting cheaper power, because at our age we need a/c and things to keep our quality of life, no internet, and get charged premium rates for trying to call the organisations that are supposed to be supporting us.

Well done Messrs Conroy and Rudd!  We pensioners salute you.  To you it only looks like we're flipping you the bird because - ... well, because we are.  You've screwed us around so much, you really don't deserve both fingers but we're afraid you'd think we were calling you "number one" if we dropped one.

I phoned a large hospital the other day as they have a Dental Unit and I had been nursing a toothache for several weeks while trying to find a dental facility that does public coverage patients and wasn't closed over Christmas, and with outrageous callout fees to pay.

"No sorry" says the chick that answers the phone, "they only do emergency dental work on weekends"
I point out to her that I have a piece of paper in front of me given to me by the Dept Health and it has their Dental Unit plainly listed as "weekdays 9:00 to 4:30" and "weekends 9:00 to 12:00" so can she please explain herself?  "Oh," she says, "they don't do extractions or emergency during the week, and only emergency on the weekend."  WTF WTF WTFF?

Since then, I'm convinced that "dumb" and "dental" go hand in hand.  I've been phoning several other practices and they all have on hold music and messages saying that they're on holiday and callout fees apply.  Then I get to one that doesn't have that message and I wait. And wait.  I run my fucking phone out of credit again while waiting, in fact.  I find their White Pages entry and there's a contact email for appointments.  Several minutes later I have an email sent.

A week later I drive into town to find a practice that's open and go to this particular one.  Apparently they've actually been open almost all the holiday break but their phones get handled by a head office...  So I book, tell them I'm a pensioner, and could she please give me a ballpark figure for the gap payment so that I can budget my meagre pension?

"uh no because we don't know what rate you'll get rebated at" but I already know I'll get a certain level of rebate and tell her.  "Well we don't quote numbers in advance" she says, so I say what harn can there be in letting me know what I'll have to put aside and do without in order to pay their bill, and she says "we don't give that information out." And that's pretty much that.  I get told I'll need to bring a letter of income from Centerlink, which strikes me as a bit odd.  Then I check out the bundle of paperwork they've given me to take home to fill out.

There's a section I have to sign, which authorises Centerlink to release my status information to the surgery electronically.  I phone the bimbo again.  (Sorry, but she is definitely a bimbo.) I ask why they are asking me to authorise Centerlink to provide my status information and still have to also provide a letter from Centerlink that just duplicates this.  "You have to authorise Centerlink to give us the information contained in the letter.  YOU authorise it by going and getting the letter. It's standard practice.  I don't know why YOU'RE the only one having a problem with this."

I've meanwhile gone to a small practice elsewhere, where they've asked me to fill in that same release form, and then told me quite frankly how much of a gap payment I'd be up for if it was an extraction that was to be done.  No fucking around, no bullshit, no hassles, well done that Practice!

I ring Bimbo back and say "My name's Ted **** and I want to cancel my appointment."  The bimbo asks why and I refer back to our earlier conversation, and furthermore tell her I think she was stupid and has lost a customer.  She tries to explain once again that when I authorise Centerlink to provide the requested information, I then have to go and get that information and deliver it by hand anyway because that's how it's authorised.  "What," I say, "you mean I'm signing that piece of paper in order to allow myself to go into Centerlink and get my status statement and then bring it to here t show to you?  You don't think that's a trifle redundant anywhere along that process?"

She tries to express the ineffable (to her, anyway) for another six or seven minutes, and I finally get tired of it and ask her to just cancel my appointment.  She asks why and "Because I've just been to another practice where they didn't squirm and wriggle and avoid giving me a ballpark figure on what the operation would cost me, and they also got me to sign one of those forms and will contact Centerlink electronically just like it says on that form and get the information they need without me having to jump through hoops and run redundant paper copies around just because some stupid receptionist doesn't know the procedure."

"Uh sir, I..."

"Yes, you're that receptionist and you're stupid!  Please remember to cancel my appointment and have an adequate day." *click*

Five minutes later the phone rings and a woman with a heavy accent says "******* Dental.  We have an email here from you enquiring about an appointment, but it came to us here in head office and we were closed until today.  When can we book your appointment for?"  I tell her that I've already booked an appointment and just cancelled an it, and yes it was the same appointment I'd sent an email seeking but would now no longer be requiring.  She asked me why I'd cancelled and I said "Talk to Stupid at the ****** practice..." and wished her a good day and hung up...

Can things get any more stupid than that lot?  I think we're going to find a load more of these gems as the system goes pear-shaped under the pressure of stupid people making up stupid rules for everything from Internet to dental work...





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