Monday, August 31, 2009

Health Care Stories: Quick Hits

Here are some emails I've received over the past month concerning the Project.

I really don't know how people in USA manage without a civilized health care system. In UK it does not matter who you are, you get treated. You do not need to make a private deal with a health care provider - you just get treated. My mother died five years ago and was cared for first in hospital and then in her own home. We had excellent domiciliary services - nurses, doctors, medicines, pain management, equipment - on tap throughout whenever she needed them. Nobody ever even thinks about 'does her policy cover this?' - no delays, no exclusions.

Narborough, United Kingdom

In February 2005 I married an American citizen living in Seattle. On March 8 2005, I went to Summit Radiology in Seattle for a TB examination/chest x-ray as required by U.S. Immigration as part of a physical to allow me to live in the U.S. I was told that there was a "scratch" test for this or an X-ray, and when I requested that I’d rather not have an X-ray, I was told they didn't do the scratch tests. I agreed to the X-ray, thought I was having the X-ray, and when it was done, the person who took the X-ray realized she hadn't had film installed. So, I had to have a second X-ray. The impression showed "No apparent active disease in the chest. Specifically, there is no evidence of active TB." I was furious at the carelessness of the technician or whatever title/qualifications she had, but I wasn't in no position to make waves. I don't have TB, but I sure had a lot of exposure to radiation.

Vancouver, Canada

Really quick story. My husband's back went out, and we ended up in the ER where they did take an X-ray and transferred it to a CD, which was useful later at the chiropractor, and gave pain meds which were useful at the moment. The hospital has so far billed us for over $1000 and been paid around a third of that. The chiropractic care had to be paid in cash since it is not covered by insurance. A wise investment since it actually got my husband walking again, and a bargain compared to "regular health care," which did not offer any real solutions to the problem, yet was covered by insurance.

San Diego, CA

My personal experience of the Swedish system is that, in general, it works well, in basics, when it doesn't it usually has something to do with overall budget cuts, system restructions not to mention the human factor.

We all want to meet, and depend on, professionals that are competent, caring and skilled in their respective field. That's unfortunately not always the case, and of course a universal problem not linked to the specific health care system per se, be it health care or other areas.


In general, I am content with the healthcare in Quebec, Canada. I don’t have to worry about the cost of emergencies, and I generally feel safe and secure. There are times though there I wish the healthcare system were more efficient.

One word: waiting. The story that best exemplifies this is one where my cousin was not feeling well, so she went to the emergency room. She had been waiting for a few hours, and other people kept being examined before her.

Eventually, she passed out in the waiting area. The next thing she knew, she was being examined by a doctor, and they had moved her into the emergency room. “If you ever need to get in faster,” she told us all later, “just pass out. It works wonders!”

Now I don’t think it’s necessarily always like this in hospitals here in Quebec. Though we all seem to have our share of “long wait” stories.

In terms of patient care, I’ve met many nurses while visiting my grandfather in the hospital, and they are all very caring and attentive. They are lighthearted and great at lifting the mood of the patient.

Overall, I’d have to say that I’m content with the healthcare system here, but the waiting average at hospitals can be trying at times.

Quebec, Canada

You should remember that the Americans have far more ethics than the UK management systems. The NHS is in turmoil--not because of its principle but because of bad management for many years. The death rate is fairly high in the UK but not featured anywhere. I doubt you can compare the UK system to the proposed US system because the ethos of the UK is completely different. Nevertheless, care here is much like the lottery, I doubt people die on streets, but they definitely die in hospitals with a high rate of errors. While the US system appreciates whistle blowing, even appreciates the need for high quality healthcare, the UK government does not.

United Kingdom

Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, I've only ever had to use the NHS a few times. Thankful only because I've not been very ill very much not because I think the NHS is in any way unable to

The times I have used them I have been treated quickly, efficiently, and pleasantly. There has never been any trouble with them prescribing any drugs needed, or offering any form of treatment (which seems to be the problem many Republicans have with the idea of a public healthcare system).

I was born in an NHS hospital, my brother and sister were born via IVF treatment partially funded by the NHS. The NHS has been there whenever my family and friends have needed it, be it a visit to the emergency dentist on Christmas Day or treatment for leukaemia.

My other half, who has private health insurance with his American employer, recently found a tumour in his hand and found private hospitals were great for the kinds of amenities one associates with a five-star hotel (multi-channel television, room service) but found the NHS ended up offering him a better style of aftercare for his (privately) botched surgery than the private hospital were prepared to give him. They basically refused to fix the mess they had made of his hand because his insurance wouldn't cover it! Thank God the Attlee Government for the NHS.

Basically, though, I've got nothing much of use to your fight, but certainly want to offer some moral support. Private healthcare will always be around for those who want it, but there should always be a public health service for those who NEED it.

United Kingdom

I'm originally from Britain, but have been living now for over 40 years in Canada. Hence my health costs have always been covered. Sure, there are problems with health care and with the costs for providing it: the system's not perfect. But I couldn't conceive of being without coverage.

The only time, thank God, I had to have medical service in the USA was after a skiing accident. I was lying on a stretcher with a torn Achilles tendon and the doctor wouldn't even see me without an upfront payment. Fortunately, I had enough in my wallet (It was before the days of credit cards), but otherwise what would I have done?

I'm also fortunate in that I had a good plan for drugs from my employer until I retired and, now being over sixty-five, I have drug coverage from the province and have to pay only a minimum amount. But what of those who can't afford adequate care? I am only too happy to support them in whatever extra taxes I may have to pay.

--A. Colin

When my father was 94, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was operated on immediately and received all the health care he needed and didn't spend a penny, thanks to the British national health system. This was the same UK NHS that, according to Sarah Palin and her colleagues, organises 'death panels' for people over 60. If that were the case, my father would have been left to die. As it was, he had another seven years of rich and fulfilling life ahead of him because of the NHS's prompt, and excellent, treatment.


I am a mid-level health care provider and have worked in ERs for about the last fifteen years. Regardless what your feelings are on the subject of reform the system is on the verge of collapse. ERs are operating above capacity with volumes unthinkable only five years ago. People are using facilities designed as triage for long term care. This cannot continue. Physicans, nurses, technicans and therapists are working beyond compentency levels due to sheer numbers. Anyone who thinks that there is no 'Problem' has no idea what they are speaking of....


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