Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthcare: The Good the Bad and the Disgustingly Ugly

The other day on someone else's FB page, an old friend defended nationalized healthcare and, in particular, Britain's NHS.  I knew her experience was dated and I knew there had been multiple reported problems in Britain's nationalized healthcare system, but tonight I found it was even worse than I had imagined.

I already knew that 1 in 4 NHS Trusts failed basic hygiene standards like cleaning up blood spatter and basic handwashing rules.  In another report (link no longer available) 25-30% of Trusts were found to be failing on basic safety measures like bedrails.  In addition, back in the 1990s when I first began researching NHS before lobbying against "HillaryCare", I was astounded to learn that waiting times for basic surgeries like cataracts had stretched beyond statutory limits and patients were being shipped across the channel to France for surgery.

Perhaps most troubling, as we face aging populations, one report has HALF of NHS hospitals failing to provide adequate nutrition to their elderly patients. And an Ombudsman's report found the following cases of appalling treatment of the elderly:

  • An 82-year-old woman died alone because staff didn't realize her husband had been waiting hours to see her.
  • One elderly woman spent 13 weeks in the hospital without being bathed.
  • Another woman was sent home covered in bruises, soaked in urine and wearing someone else's clothes
  • In yet another case, life support for a heart attack victim was turned off despite his wife's asking it be left on to give the family time to gather and say good-bye.
There have also been numerous reports of elderly patients being denied food and water.  

There are two things that help explain the discrepancies in Britain's healthcare system.  The first is that Britain has a 2-tiered system which allows private insurance.  The second is that their nationalized healthcare system is administered by regional trusts - which can leaves the quality of care dependent upon the ability of the regional trust's management to, well, manage.

And yet, in this country we still see pressure to move toward a nationalized single-payor system while at the same time we continue to build new hospitals with 100% private rooms!

Let me close on a happier note. The next time you hear someone complain about the number of uninsured in this country or the problems in our healthcare system. I want you to recall this story in the Denver Post about the theatre shooting this past summer:

University of Colorado Hospital worked with Medicaid and private insurers so that none of their patients paid deductibles or other out-of-pocket expenses. Doctors also wrote off expenses. CEO John Harney says his hospital wrote off more than $2 million in care.

THAT's what I love about America's healthcare (non)system. Every day, in much less spectacular ways (Thank you, God!), we give care to those who cannot pay.  And we give an exceptional quality of care.  

1 comment:

samithemage said...

Just to let you know, having worked in US hospitals, they have the same problems with sanitation that literally any health care facility has. Also, I have "health care" that I pay for myself because of school. Do you know what it covers...because I don't. I have been to the doctor for everything from birth control to the stomach flu to sinus infections. None of the doctor visit copays were paid. Also I paid for every cent of every prescription I was give. Sure Jesus healed the sick for free and instructed us to care for the poor, but that clearly only meant that we should help people when it wasn't even slightly inconvenient.