My name is Henry Smith. I am 79 years of age and a farmer near Wiimali. My wife Marjorie and I cannot afford to retire as the government policies for a pension are strict and if we sold our property we would have too many assets.
Our dream is to pass the property to our children but this is not possible under current policy. Our son who is now 53 works with us on the property. We can only afford to pay him a small wage but he is getting on in age too. He owns a couple of smaller properties of his own as well. Our grandchildren would like to work on our family farm but we cannot afford to employ them, so they work on other properties.
My health is holding out but I am a lot slower than I used to be. I have hearing aids and had surgery on my eyes so I can see. Last year I had a knee replacement. This cost me around $5000 and my wife has had to have similar surgery. We have to be able to see and want to be able to continue earning some money. We have private health insurance but the medical costs are outrageous. What can you do?
It is virtually impossible to get into the doctors in town as they are booked out two to three weeks in advance. You just cannot be ill. At my age it is important to see a doctor if you need one. Because Marj and I need to see specialists we have to travel for 4-5 hours even if it is only for a check up. My best friend has skin cancer and he has to travel to Sydney every couple of months. When he is hospitalised he has to be in the city. This is very distressing for him and his wife as they are 85 and have to be driven to the city by family or friends.
We would just like a little support in terms of accessing health facilities at a reasonable cost.
Farming is not making big profits. We have just had a ten year drought and then lost our wheat crop in a large flood. Our income and turnover from our business is negative we are living off our capital. This is very difficult. It is so depressing that we have worked hard all our lives and we are going out backwards. Then if you try to access support for mental health issues you have to book into the doctor weeks in advance or travel big distances to visit someone to help you. Last week, our neighbour shot himself. He left a wife and three young children. We did not realise how bad things had become. He could see no way out of his problems and he had no professional help.
The government makes a lot of noise about improving country access to services but they don’t provide adequate health services because they cost too much to operate. Are country people not important? They don’t complain; they just try to get on with life. We’re hardly likely to make a great media story.
Story by Henry Smith