Kokoda Trail defender battles Bluecare beaurocracy
GEORGE Batts is the sole survivor of an Australian Air Force crew who dropped supplies to troops along the Kokoda Trail in July 1942.
Now he's battling his health provider's beaurocracy.
At 97, Mr Batts lives alone in his North Rockhampton home, visited every day by his neighbours and his Blue Care nurses.
His neighbours visit voluntarily; his Bluecare support is subsidised by the Department of Veteran Affairs, leaving Mr Batts with a small, monthly bill.
The one-time railway clerk, who was born in Springsure, is fed up with asking for this bill to be itemised.
What he owes is simply listed on one line as 'Community Care Service', and fluctuates from week to week.
"I've been fighting this for some time because no Bluecare patient knows what they're paying for,” he said.
"If it's for meals, it should say "meals”; if it's for cleaning, it should say "cleaning”.”
"The invoice should stipulate what you're being charged for.”
Mr Batts is clear he doesn't have a problem with the carers who change his medical stocking once a week, and come in to clean once a fortnight.
It may be that the fortnightly services account for the fluctuation in his invoice from week to week.
However, he is frustrated that Bluecare is not responding to concerns that he and other customers also don't know where there money is going.
Last year, Mr Batts was among about 20 stakeholders who attended a Bluecare general meeting, during which he raised the invoicing issue.
"I asked, "How many of you know know what you're paying for?”, and not one person put their hand up,” he said.
Other clients, who do not receive DVA subsidies, may face invoices for higher amounts.
Mr Batts' neighbour, Florian Ast, said the veteran is fearless in petitioning for a more transparent system, probably because Mr Batts was in charge of financial investigations during his time at the Rockhampton railway booking office.
"But a lot of other customers are old and afraid they won't receive services if they raise their voices and complain.”
Since the general meeting, Mr Batts returned to Bluecare to discuss the matter with its management where he was told he would be seen in five minutes.
"I sat there for a good half hour and then I told them, if I didn't get seen in five minutes, I would go the Morning Bulletin,” he said.
"They turned around quick and lively after that.”
However, a year later, Mr Batts is still waiting for an outcome which would render his invoices more transparent.
"Their excuse is, "We don't do accounts; that's all handled by Brisbane”,” he said.
"I've spoken to someone in Uniting Care in Brisbane and she said they work with an old computer system and it can't be changed.”
"But the carers who come here sign everything off on their phones in real time; it's not like the technology's not available.”
Mr Batts spoke about the invoicing with one of his nurses who uses another health support service for her parent.
He said she told him it's the same with other organisations.
"They've wiped us,” he said, as Mr Ast helped him with his hearing aid.
"They've adopted the principle of not telling clients what they're actually paying for, and expecting us to just put with it.”
4:40PM UPDATE: A Bluecare spokesperson said, "In addition to his monthly invoice, Blue Care provides Mr Batts with a monthly report that includes a break-down of all the services we provide him and the corresponding amounts charged."