A while back, while visiting with a friend of mine out of town, I found myself taking on the role of nurse after she woke up with severe nausea and stomach cramps. Turns out that the lovely meal she had out on the town the previous night had given her food poisoning. As she continued to get worse we decided to make the quick trek to the one local hospital.
We then proceeded to sit for hours in the waiting room as she carried on dry heaving and growing more dehydrated. Even as the phlebotomist was dealing with her collapsing veins during the blood draw they still could not get the authorization to put her on a much needed IV and anti nausea medications. The reason? It was against hospital policy to do anything until a bed was open.
Apparently, there’s a marked difference between sitting up in a hospital bed versus sitting up in the wheelchair while taking up space in the overcrowded ER waiting room. The delayed care that could have easily been remedied early on with an IV drip and a simple pill led to a longer recuperation once a bed did become available.
Looking at this from an objective business standpoint we realize there is too much demand and not enough market competition that would mean less crowding and perhaps better service with improvements in their protocols. Market competition means lower costs and refinement of products and services.
However, political soundbytes from those pushing for more control and more of our money will claim it’s the for-profit system that drives up cost and affects quality of care. An interesting claim considering that about a quarter of our hospitals are already government run and half are nonprofit.
So what truly is the issue if it’s not a greedy for-profit hospital system taking advantage of us when we’re at our most vulnerable? It’s the politicians themselves and the lobbying healthcare system and pharmaceutical companies that artificially keep demand high - and costs - by reducing the amount of hospitals and competing drug companies through tons of advantageous red tape.
At the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the Libertarian Party has been incredibly vocal about the deep-seated flaws in our cronyistic medical system. Back in March, the former chair of the Libertarian National Committee, Nickolas Sarwark, went on MSNBC and spoke up about Dr. Helen Chu - an infectious disease expert monitoring the flu - who ultimately broke the law when she used her lab in Seattle to successfully test, and therefore isolate, those infected with COVID-19 early on. If she had listened to the FDA and CDC many more lives would’ve been lost as well as valuable knowledge about the disease.
We are now looking at a critical point as a surge in both COVID cases and the usual cold weather illnesses mean ICU beds are closing in on maximum capacity. According to the NCBI website, at any given time in the U.S., ICU bed occupancy rate ranges from 57.4% - 82.1%. In other words, just like that day spent in the ER waiting room, we’ve known for quite some time that our system is strained, yet many states continue to have things like Certificate of Need laws that prevent the expansion or creation of healthcare facilities. There are also onerous licensing laws that differ from state to state that prevent healthcare professionals from easily crossing state lines to help in a crisis.
Instead of focusing on fixing these bottlenecks, the powers that be redirect our attention away from their destructive policies and gaslight us into believing there’s not enough ICU beds because people aren’t wearing masks and are visiting with family over the holidays. The truth is this crisis was years in the making and even though experts have been predicting an impending global pandemic for years nothing has changed for the better.
This country has now become one big overcrowded ER waiting room making us sit and suffer as our health declines because of lousy policy. How much longer will we sit and wait for them to fix this life or death issue they’ve created for us?