Red tape: a cautionary tale

3 minute read

It may sound like a festive wrapping accessory for Christmas presents, but it’s not that.

Hello everyone.

Today we’re going to talk about red tape.

Red tape isn’t really red and it isn’t really tape. Red tape is a kind of obstacle that governments like, but nobody else does.

This might be difficult to understand at first but here are some examples to help you.

Example 1

Dr Jones is phoning the hospital about his patient. He’s been on hold for half an hour listening to Opus number 1 and the dark brooding music has really got in his head.

When he gets through to the ward he asks them what medication his patient was discharged on. Rather than just telling him, they ask him to fax a three-page Freedom of Information request and wait up to 15 working days for a response. 

Example 2

Dr Jones has prescribed Mrs Duckworth some tablets which she can get from the chemist. But it’s not as simple as just writing a prescription. He has to phone a number to get a special PBS authority number first.

Whilet he’s waiting on the phone Mrs Duckworth mentions four other problems including headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and a weird buzzy feeling in her bladder. She also asks him to check over her two children as well.

When he gets through they won’t give him a special PBS authority number because it’s four days too early. They tell him to call back again in four days’ time and put the phone down on him.

Example 3

Mr Campbell has been seeing the same specialist about the same problem for the past 15 years and he is here today because he needs another referral letter to the same specialist who has been seeing him for the past 15 years about the same problem. Dr Jones writes the same referral letter he’s always written. Sometimes his job makes him feel as empty as Julian Assange’s Pokédex.

Example 4

Up until recently Dr Jones has been able to phone his patients with their test results, but not any more. In order to satisfy Services Australia he now has to complete lots of forms, scan them in, email them to his patients and wait for them to reply. A quick five-minute consultation has turned into a 30-minute bureaucratic nightmare, an odyssey through a paperwork landscape full of letter-headed terror.

Becoming a professional goth, crying and beating his patients to death with a telephone are all bad options, so instead Dr Jones gets a job in a government department where he gets to make other people’s lives terrible instead.

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