David Burge Updates

David Burge updates his journey with leukemia

I’ve Been Thinking …

with 3 comments

Those who only want an update on my health can just read the first two paragraphs 🙂

One of the things I have learned to manage, having cerebral palsy, is that if I do “too much”, my legs begin to hurt. The trouble with having C.P. and Cancer is that having a bath, cleaning my teeth and getting to the toilet and back (an inordinate number of times per day, due to the amount of fluids I am supposed to be drinking) is “too much“. My legs have been aching so much over the last week that I decided to seek medical help. My normal response of resting my legs was not available to me. I am already doing the minimum necessary to maintain life and limb. My “emergency” response of taking an anti inflammatory was likewise not available to me. The doctors didn‘t want me taking an anti inflammatory with the various problems I have with my blood. I needed some advice as to what I could take, so I rang the hospital and arranged to see a doctor. This is all background to the story I want to tell.

I went into the ward Saturday morning (after getting almost no sleep Friday night). I arrived around 10:00 am and waited about two hours to see the doctor. Fair enough. Meanwhile my “bloods” came back showing I am no longer neutropenic. The doctor prescribed what turned out to be just the thing. I slept like a baby Saturday night. On Sunday I felt better than I have felt for a week or more. If that had been the end of the story well and good but the doctor felt it necessary to send me for an ultra sound in case the pain in my legs was indicative of a clot. I waited all day until 5:00 pm Saturday before they sent me home without the scan and asked me to come back Sunday. They could give me no idea as to when on Sunday my scan might be and suggested I come in about the same time as Saturday, around 10:00 am. We did ring early Sunday morning and ask if it was possible to do the scan on Monday. Given that I was so well I was hoping to attend church Sunday morning and/or a baptismal service Sunday afternoon. I was urged to come in and told that the scan would definitely be done that morning. By the time I arrived on the ward, I was told that the scan would be done 1:00 pm at the latest and earlier if they could fit me in. By 2:00 pm I was told that an emergency had meant that my scan had been put back by an unknown number of hours but that it would definitely be done “today” (Sunday). In the end it was after 4:00 pm before the scan was completed and I was ready to go home.

The experience set me to thinking. I had lots of time to think. Every person I saw, doctors, nurses, orderlies, was hard working and dedicated to meeting the patients’ needs as best as is possible but the system as a whole does not seem to work well. If you are a few days to a week from death’s door, as I was when first admitted, things happen quickly and efficiently. The further you are from imminent demise the worse things get. Those, however, (like me) who are inclined to think that the Free Market might do a better job than the Government when it comes to providing health services for all are reminded of two supposedly immutable truths: 1) Health is so important that something has to be done to ensure that everyone has access to these essential services; and 2) Health is so important that it is in fact too important to be left to the vagaries of the Market. What seems like common sense to many an average kiwi, is actually not necessarily so at all. Consider the following analogy: 1) Food is so important that something has to be done to ensure that everyone has access to food (Indeed, food is as important as essential health services as without food we will all die); and 2) Food is so important that it is in fact too important to be left to the vagaries of the Market. What seemed like common sense when applied to health services becomes, logically, an equally powerful argument for Government ownership of Supermarkets.

We do have some experience of Government run Supermarkets. Not here in New Zealand, but in Soviet Russia. We are told that people had to queue for hours for even the most basic of necessities, bread. We are told that Muscovites would join any line which they saw forming. It did not matter that they did not know what they were queuing for. The existence of a line was proof enough that there was something worth having at the other end. If you did not buy as much as you were allowed today, there was no guarantee that the goods would be available tomorrow. So one joined the queue and bought as much as one could. Looking back, everyone agrees that this social experiment in the Government provision of essential services, in this case food, was an unmitigated disaster. We would not want the Government to take over the provision of food in New Zealand. We know the Government would make a dog’s breakfast of it. Why do we feel that the provision of health services is any different?

I am not advocating the immediate abolition of all welfare. The social consequences would be catastrophic. But when it comes to food we have privately owned Supermarkets that compete with one another to provide the best service at the best price – and this works well for the majority of people. The cost is lower and the variety greater than would otherwise be the case (even special needs, such as those who are “gluten free”, are catered for by the Market). For those who need it (assuming the best possible scenario) the Government provides funds to enable one to purchase food on the open market, as it were. Clearly, this is better than the Soviet model when it comes to the provision of food for all. Why would this same system not work for health?

Privately owned clinics would compete with one another to provide the best service at the best price – and this would work well for the majority of people who could purchase insurance for less than they currently pay in taxes. The cost would be lower and the variety greater. Waiting times would be drastically reduced. For those who need it (those born with conditions that mean that they are uninsurable or who through certain circumstances are unable to afford insurance premiums) the Government would provide funds to enable one to purchase health services or insurance on the open market. Clearly, this too would be better than the Soviet model when it comes to the provision of health services for all.

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Written by admin

December 14, 2009 at 11:09 am

3 Responses

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  1. Were you thinking of a certain book when you titled this post? I have a copy and it’s very good.

    If you are a few days to a week from death’s door, as I was when first admitted, things happen quickly and efficiently. The further you are from imminent demise the worse things get.

    That is true. I once walked into a hospital emergency department and, before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’, I was thrown onto a bed that was waiting in the foyer, rushed into a room, had my shirt cut off, and was attacked with needles.

    In every other case the speed of service has reminded me of a sedated sloth.

    In a public hospital staff get into trouble if a patient dies, but not if a patient is kept waiting for days.

    In a private hospital staff get into trouble when a patient dies and when a patient is kept waiting for days. This is because in a free market unhappy customers vote with their wallets and go elsewhere.

    Jachin

    December 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm

  2. Hi Dave,
    I hope you are doing well. I want to take issue with your claim that free market health systems are better. You need to look at the movie “Sicko” that came out a couple of years ago. It looks at how bad the USA health system is and how something like 25 million Americans have no health insurance because they can’t afford it. The insurance companies, instead of caring for people, try to find reasons not to treat people. They employ an army of people to kick people off when they need treatment, so much so that the government had to pass a law recently that says that insurance companies can’t kick people off their insurance just because they are really badly ill.

    Something to think about.

    Cheers
    Craig Blaxall

    Craig Blaxall

    December 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm

  3. […] he has some pain relief medication  (morphine) that he can take which he had prescribed when suffering leg pain ( I rang the ward to check how much he could take and whether he needed to come into hospital). […]


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