The high price Elsie has to pay for the air she breathes
By JULIA ILES
ELSIE Coates can't go one minute without oxygen from a cylinder and will need it for the rest of her life.
She is confined to her home most days and needs 24-hour care.
"My lungs are basically dead due to emphysema, asthma ... I have it all," she said.
Wherever Mrs Coates goes in her Grafton home, she carries a long oxygen cord which is attached to an oxygen condenser.
Her husband Ronald is constantly by her side and looks after all her basic needs.
Both of them live off an old age pension of $408 each with an extra $92 carer's allowance.
And under the Federal Government's PBS safety net, they have to spend $1000 on prescription medicine to receive a rebate.
"It's not a lot to live on, we cook everything and if I see something I'd like, I think wouldn't it be nice to have that, but I think I don't really need it," she said.
When Mrs Coates needs to go to the doctor, the shops or on an occasional drive down to Maclean, an oxygen cylinder must accompany her.
If there is a blackout, it is mandatory that she has a cylinder available as her oxygen condenser runs on electricity.
"It would be terrifying if I was home alone and couldn't get to one of them (she also uses a wheelchair), I would have to call an ambulance," she said.
When Mr Coates goes out without Mrs Coates, she is constantly on his mind.
"I worry that something will happen to her," he said.
The only company which can supply the oxygen cylinder is Ballina-based Air Liquide.
They charge Mrs Coates $10 for the oxygen, which is paid for by the government, but the company charges $25 for transport per delivery and $51 per month for rental.
It is believed they do not add on transport costs for deliveries to Grafton businesses using industrial oxygen.
"Then it is very difficult to compare the industrial and the medical activities as we have much more individualised customer needs in healthcare as opposed to bulk industrial needs," a Air Liquide spokeswoman Elisabeth Des Moulins said.
It is not possible either for Mrs Coates to purchase a cylinder.
"To maintain this high standard of safety, we do not refill cylinders privately owned by patients," Ms Des Moulins said.
Member for Page Ian Causley admitted that it was possible for some people to fall through the cracks of the health system.
He asked the couple to contact his office.