Betty vs. The State: a one-act play based on recent events

5 minute read

Betty plans to resume her medical career after a year away. But the Faceless Health Regulatory Body has other ideas

Betty returns from a year volunteering in South America, planning to resume her medical career. 

She will do some revision and clinical courses to update her skills and get a well-supervised job to ease back into practice. Unfortunately, she reckons without the Health Regulatory Body, which promptly puts her in a headlock, flings her to the floor and holds a pitchfork to her neck.


–  Betty, a junior doctor returning to work

–  Faceless Employee of Health Regulatory
Body (FEHRB, for short)

–  Potential Employer

FEHRB: Who are you? Speak! Where is the Paperwork demonstrating that you completed an Australian medical degree with distinction, worked for two years in an area of need and received consistently above average supervisors’ reports?

Betty: Here. In your file.

FEHRB: Oh. Here, rewrite it on this 20-page form and submit with originals in triplicate with payment.

The Regulatory Body denies that its role is to keep records of the information Betty resupplies. Exchange of requisite reams of information, large amounts of money and unreturned phone calls. 

FEHRB: This won’t do. You need to prove that you are taking up a supervised position.

Betty: I am. I’ve been out of medical school for three years. Did you think I was applying for director of cardiothoracic surgery?

FEHRB: None of your big words or I’ll report you for bullying a Representative of the Regulatory Body! You must supply evidence from your Potential Employer that any job offer is appropriately supervised.

Betty: But no one will give me a job unless I have registration. The Hospital Recruitment People say it’s illegal to offer me a job unless I have registration!

FEHRB: Tough.

Soft musical montage of impending defeat. Potential Employers scatter when con-fronted with the repetitive Paperwork the Regulatory Body requires. After some weeks of wrangling, The Regulatory Body informs Betty via pigeon that The Special Board is having its monthly meeting – a meeting especially convened to consider disciplinary cases, such as that of a doctor who insolently takes a year to broaden her humanity. If she can get the Paperwork to them, they may consider her case.

Betty: When do you need the Paperwork?

FEHRB: Yesterday. I know you were told the third of July, it was actually the second. I was distracted by the taxpayer-funded, five-day staff development program in the Barossa Valley: How to Create the Illusion of Efficiency, De-facilitate Action and Misdirect People. You’ll have to wait for the next meeting.

Betty: But the pigeon said the meeting isn’t for two weeks!

FEHRB: Yes, but we need two weeks to file the Paperwork.

Another month goes by, in which time Betty loses another three Potential Employers and chews off half of her left hand. Eventually she finds a Potential Employer willing to fell half the Tarkine to help her become re-recognised in the job she has performed competently for two years. She approaches the throne room and lays her Paperwork at their feet.

FEHRB: This seems to not be in order. I gave you the wrong Paperwork. Your Potential Employer must do it again. According to the Speak Like the Terms and Conditions Section of an Airline Ticket workshop we did last week, I’ve been too clear with you up to now.

Betty: Asking the Potential Employer will probably result in their not wanting to employ me.

FEHRB: Tough.

Betty re-approaches a week later with the new Paperwork. Things have become decidedly frosty with the Potential Employer.

FEHRB: I will take this to the Special Board in three weeks. They may decide to grant you registration. They may find fault with your Paperwork.

Betty: Can you tell me what that fault may be, that I may pre-empt it and possibly not have to wait another month for the meeting of the Special Board?


Betty: Can I talk to someone who could tell me?

FEHRB: There is no one who can tell you what the Special Board may decide.

Betty: Could I speak to a member of the Special Board?

FEHRB: Even the members of the Special Board have no idea what they may be looking for or may decide (Spoken in real life, exactly as transcribed.)

Betty: Riiiiight.

Betty makes contact after the Meeting of the Special Board.

FEHRB: The Special Board have decided that you may be registered as a Medical Practitioner, but you must submit a Special Monthly Report for the first three months after re-entering practice.

Betty: Great, fine. Give me my Registration number so that I can work.

FEHRB: No. The rules for the submission of the Monthly Report are decided by Another Special Board, which meets in two weeks.

Betty: But you said the Special Board just decided!

FEHRB: They decided that the Monthly Report must be submitted, but they haven’t decided on the font or whether it should be double spaced. That is the role of Another Special Board. I will put your case on the Agenda. Please re-supply your Paperwork promptly. Another Special Board may or may not have time to make a concisive decision.

Betty: Concisive?

FEHRB: Yes, a concisive decision. It’s similar to the court system. Well, if you think about it, it is a legal court system, isn’t it? (Also uttered exactly as transcribed.)

Betty: I am going to sign up for the dole. Can I have my registration fee back?

FEHRB: No, we need it for our next staff development junket in Singapore.

Potential Employer calls.

Potential Employer: Sorry, we can’t do this anymore. We really need someone who can work. Good luck.

Betty remains unregistered. She plans to de-skill, get depressed, nurture an addiction, drain the country of health and welfare funds and serve in the only manner left to her – as a dire warning against the broadening of experience and cultivation of empathy and resilience, so frivolously unnecessary to our medical practitioners.

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