Friday, April 3, 2020

Our Broken Health Care System has Proven Inadequate

As we all continue to distance ourselves from other people and sanitize everything we touch or that comes into our houses, I can't help but worry about all the older and chronically ill people who have been exposed to the COVID-19, and the families of those who have died. 

I can't help but wonder how many would have been saved had we begun fighting this months ago. I can't help but think that what I've said for many years, we have a broken health care system, has proven to be so true, and now we hear that from many people who didn't make much noise in the past.

I knew our health care system was not the best in the world when my family members (four or more) died from medical mistakes. It became horribly evident to me when the best health care system failed my husband. 

His care was a grotesque medley of mistakes from the wrong diagnosis in the beginning to the end of his life after a team of doctors in Emory Hospital incorrectly diagnosed him with an infectious disease. They filled him with antibiotics, even after they were told he was fighting cancer. I knew the cancer had come roaring back, but those smart physicians refused to contact his cancer doctor in Blairsville. Hospitals and physician practices are in competition. I didn’t know that, but learned the hard way.

I wish it had not taken a pandemic to prove my words. Our hospitals, poorly prepared, with insufficient supplies and far too few nurses, evidently had made no preparation for the day when a health crisis would explode this country. From what I have read and heard these past weeks, scientists and smart medical people who tried to warn us were ignored. In 2015, Bill Gates said we were not prepared for a deadly virus that would be coming.

 Our pompous leaders fell way behind on preparing us, and we the people buried our heads in the sand, not wanting to believe we were not the best. We have heard and preached to ourselves that we are the best until we believed it. Or, we did believe it until a few weeks ago.

I am sympathetic to Senator Sanders who has proclaimed for years that we need a new method of health care. We need a central system where all people can be fairly treated. But that is not the basics of this problem to me. 

My husband and I had insurance and could see doctors, but the administrators are more dollar-minded than healing-minded. Even now hospitals have been fighting over who will get the supplies needed in this crisis. With no federal oversight, it has come down to governors trying to purchase the needed supplies. Hospitals in NYC are overrun with sick people while some hospitals, where there are fewer patients, still have masks and gowns. The governors in those states hold on to them because they fear what will be coming. It makes for states competing with each other and our citizens paying the price.

I imagine some hospitals hoarded their ventilators because of what they expect will happen in their area soon. Small hospitals like Phoebe Putney in Albany, Georgia, were swamped with coronavirus patients and were not prepared at all. Not enough nursing help, not nearly enough ventilators, and not enough protection for the medical staff. Where could they go for help? We had no plan in place for such a disaster. 

This deadly virus will kill thousands of people and I think many could be saved if only we had proactive people in leadership. But, I was told by a city government employee, government is always reactive. That is why two or three people have to die at an intersection before a stop light is installed or any effort is made to prevent what might happen next.

I have been accused of over-reacting, but I would rather over-react by taking precautions than wait and and see. By then it is often too late.  

We need more people in leadership who look for approaching problems and prepare for them, not wait until they have to react, as we are doing now.

What do you think? Are you one to act on your concerns before they become major? Do you think our leaders in this pandemic acted soon enough? 


Elephant's Child said...

Our (supposedly socialist) health system is stretched. Stretched as it has been for years as successive governments reduced available funds.
Just the same, people in need CAN be treated. Are treated. For which I am endlessly grateful.
Time will tell whether the system can cope when the pandemic hits us harder than it is currently doing.
Stay well. Stay safe.

Carroll Taylor said...

This is the 21st Century. Every American has the right to quality health care, not just those who are affluent or those who live in major cities. Federal leadership should involve being proactive problem solvers. Sadly, each of us must now be our own problem solvers. We have to advocate for our health issues and appropriate medical care. I did that for my parents as they aged; otherwise, they would have slipped through the cracks of bureaucracy in medical and government programs. Greed, apathy, and lack of oversight without responsibility now permeate almost all levels of American government and the corporate world at large, and many people have no one to advocate for them. We could have averted much of the tragedy we're experiencing now if our leadership had not been in denial and had acted much sooner. This pandemic was not a surprise. Leaders wasted precious time instead of making viable plans and being proactive. Now all they can do is waste even more time with their finger-pointing.

stu moring said...

Tue 4/7/2020 2:47 PM
I think it's a well-reasoned point, but probably a little more critical than the approach I would take. I think the reality is that we don't have a "system," just a disconnected mix of entities that have some role in dealing with ill health. And unfortunately, it seems that insurance companies are the biggest player, or at least have the biggest "voice," followed closely by the pharmaceuticals. Doctors generally seem guided most by "standards of care" dictated by their associations, which I figure are largely governed by well-financed doc's representing research hospitals. The occasional functional doctors you run into seem to hew to their own path, but as disconnected individuals, they can only be "expert" in a narrow range of the practice. At the end of the day, I think we have to rely on the doc's we can find and connect with, and hope that they will pay enough attention to our symptoms and concerns and take a reasoned path to a solution, rather than standard treatment A or B or C. And, bottom line, each of us is responsible for our own health, not the doc's, not the insurance cos., etc. I share your interest in the ideas of Bernie Sanders, but would a system controlled by the government be more responsive or better prepared for outbreaks like this? Or would we have something like the VA, which has been shown to hung a lot of veterans "out to dry?"
It's sort of like car mechanics--you can go the small "independents" or the mega-car dealerships or big companies like AAA, but there's not really a "system," so it comes down to the confidence between you and your individual guy. ( And hope he doesn't get in trouble and leave the area.)

gay moring said...

Tue 4/7/2020 6:35 PM
I think this is a well thought out post. I walked the path with you through all the problems with those we loved and it seemed there were so many that didn't get good care, so I agree, we don't have a good health care system. I'm not sure what the solution is, but what we have now is poor.

Glenda Beall said...

EC, I am glad to hear you speak of your national health care system. Seems no governmental program can be any better than the people elected to lead the country. Today I listened to Dr. Steven Woolfe speak about our health care system and he says in USA we have a fragmented system with insurance companies and others in health care decisions so no one is really in charge for the whole country. I think that is a major problem.

Glenda Beall said...

Carroll, Yes we have a very unfair health care or lack of health care system in this country. This pandemic has hit lower economic groups much harder than the more affluent. I am grateful that I have always been able to have health insurance even when neither my husband or I were employed with company health insurance. But right now this virus hits everyone and sadly many have no one to advocate for them and many are dying.

Glenda Beall said...

Stu, thanks for your comment on this blog and thanks for sending me to the No Labels program with Dr. Steven Woolfe.
What we have in this country is not a system of any kind. It is, like you say, a mishmash of choices people try to research and choose the best for them. But some choices offered to you in Atlanta are not available here in the mountains. Several doctors I liked and had chosen for my health care have closed their offices and moved away. So much depends on where you live and how much money you can afford to spend. I will always believe that money played a large part in the decisions made by Emory Hospital when Barry was there.

Glenda Beall said...

Gay, thanks for your email comment that I posted here. I know you are aware of the failures of health care in this country because you and I were there to see it. I'll always remember how doctors failed Mother as she went from one to another complaining about the horrific headaches she suffered for a month and not one doctor took her complaints seriously and when her BP was extremely high, Dr. Trulock sent her away saying, "I wouldn't even treat my own mother for high blood pressure." He could have referred her to someone and made sure she was seen immediately. Within two weeks she collapsed with a ruptured aneurysm and almost died never having recovered her short term memory. Her life and all our lives were forever changed because no one offered her any help. She had Medicare insurance at the time.

That is only one of the times our family dealt with lack of health care.