Sunday, November 18, 2007

No, they CAN'T just go to the emergency room

Last night, I was half-watching Michael Moore's latest documentary, "Sicko," and thinking that he was going a little over the top with his case on health care access, especially with respect to Cuba, where I suspect he and his ailing entourage was able to access the nicest, most up-to-date care available, at Havana Hospital. Based on my experience in the former Soviet Union, the average neighborhood clinic or hospital leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of sanitation, quality of staff, etc. So that might have been a showcase affair staged exclusively for Moore.

But then I saw this item in the New York Times, and the dimensions of our health care crisis here in the United States became clear in a way that transcends Moore's occasional agitprop and for that matter all of the usual black-and-white political discourse: some people in this country are now being served by Remote Area Medical, a group of volunteer doctors and nurses who normally work in places like...Haiti, Guyana, Tanzania and rural India. That's how bad things have gotten especially for people in rural America. The Times reporter notes that it has become a yearly ritual in Virgina that

"Each summer, shortly after the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair and Horse Show wraps up at the fairgrounds, members of Virginia Lions Clubs start bleaching the premises, readying them for RAM’s volunteers, who, working in animal stalls and beneath makeshift tents, provide everything from teeth cleaning and free eyeglasses to radiology and minor surgery. The problem, says RAM’s founder, Stan Brock, is always in the numbers, with the patients’ needs far outstripping what his team can supply. In Wise County, when the sun rose and the fairground gates opened at 5:30 on Friday morning, more than 800 people already were waiting in line. Over the next three days, some 2,500 patients would receive care, but at least several hundred, Brock estimates, would be turned away. He adds: “There comes a point where the doctors say: ‘Hey, I gotta go. It’s Sunday evening, and I have to go to work tomorrow.’ ”

It should be obvious to everyone that access to health care is the number one domestic issue for this country in 2007. I've seen it personally manifested in friends and acquaintances' having to remain in toxic, terrible work situations because they can't get insurance otherwise. I think there would be a tremendous burst of creative activity here if that problem were solved, in the creation of numerous small businesses and services that would afford people the chance to do something for a living that they were really passionate about. But I'm afraid that the idea that people in this country must depend on groups usually working in third-world nations has a resonance lacking in other examples and rationales.

I think this ought to become front and center in someone's campaign--access to health care has become so difficult in places that volunteers heretofore serving exclusively third-world nations, the poorest of the poor, now must operate in America. Where is the outrage? Why do we settle for this?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why the candidates spend as much time as they can talking about Iraq. Nobody has a plan and nobody cares.

7:23 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Edwards and Kucinich both have excellent plans. Clinton and Obama have plans that need a lot of improvement. The GOP contenders have plans that should be named Ulysses health care so we can call them Useless for short.

2:18 PM  

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