But We’re the Greatest, Aren’t We?

Just read the following AP article which rightly points out that the U.S. healthcare system is “not prepared” for an Ebola outbreak, or a SARS outbreak, or really any outbreak in particular. But the news is of course riding the Ebola fear wagon, so the title is:

U.S. Health Care unprepared for Ebola

If you actually read the article, some of the concerns simply point out how terrible health care is for the average American:

The emergency care system is already overextended, without the extra stress of a new infectious disease. In its 2014 national report card, the American College of Emergency Physicians gives the country a D-plus grade in emergency care, asserting the system is in “near-crisis.”

Federal data shows patients spend an average of 4 1/2 hours in emergency rooms at U.S. hospitals before being admitted, and 2 percent of patients leave before being seen.

14 percent of isolation care doctors and nurses and one in four emergency and critical care staff said they’d call in sick if Ebola patients were admitted to their hospitals.

Since 2002, CDC has given states and territories more than $10 billion to help public health care systems ramp up when facing a disease outbreak. The program has been cut by 30 percent since fiscal year 2007, which led to thousands of layoffs by state and local health departments, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

A recent survey of 2,500 members of the same association found that only one in three local health departments had participated in full-scale emergency preparedness drills.

The only person in America to die of Ebola and transmit it, Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, died after he went to the ER with fever symptoms, said he had traveled from Liberia, and was sent home with $40 worth of antibiotics, because he didn’t have health insurance. Our system of triage is broken, because it is two tiered. If you have insurance, you head into treatment. If you don’t, well, nice knowing you. We have to treat you, but don’t expect the same care the paying customer gets. I know people who’ve had to use charity care; a painful dental abscess that swells your face like a chipmunk who swallowed a grapefruit, an infection? Not life threatening, so go home with these pills. Painkillers cost extra. Painlessness is a privilege.

We’re the only so-called first world country that does this to its citizens. The Affordable Care Act was a compromise, when single payer was the inevitable way to save this. No, it is not perfect. You can find horror stories from Canada or the UK or anywhere; but their hospitals don’t kill 48,000 people a year with infections, or kill 98,000 through mistakes in care (a low estimate, some studies put it over 200,000). As someone who watched his grandmother die of post-operation infections, I am all for France’s system of moving you home for care where you can’t get or spread infections.

So while we’re all paranoid about a nurse in Maine who has no systems, whose blood tested negative for Ebola, and whether she should be jailed for not wanting to be homebound when she is safe unless she has a fever- and I trust her to know when she has a fever- maybe we should be more concerned about how terrible our healthcare infrastructure is. And another reason we might be afraid of Ebola spreading is because we all know people who go to work sick and spread their plague germs because we only get a few sick days (IF ANY!) and besides, showing up to work sick shows you really want this job! Your co-workers can suck it.

I say this as my whole office starts coughing, including me. So maybe we’ve all got Ebola. I’ll self-quarantine, and medicate with a bottle of Talisker’s.

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