Saturday, July 19, 2008

Verifying Sicko

oh La, Unrulies! Nosy is back from the land of tea and scones, full of stories (or something, depending on your point of view) from two weeks touring Great Britain one tourist trap at a time. Can't help that - it was a planned tour with my SO's church choir. So now here I am, back in the land of unregulated cranes (a Houston Chronicle story today verifies that neither Texas nor Houston regulates cranes, only 15 states do) with a story about medical care in Great Britain.

The Brits have a love-hate relationship with the National Health System. In some respects it's a fine system but, as with any limited resource, it must be managed. As a result, you end up with some rare stories of denied treatment, of people forced to choose which eye to retain, of some mis-appropriations of medical care but ask any Brit if they'd give up the NHS and the answer (at least in those I spoke with) is a resounding NO. They can read the results of the free-market madness called a racket by one of the reddest fishwrappers in the country and want nothing to do with it. We're number 42 in life expectancy, rank right there with Cuba and Croatia in infant mortality and we pay twice as much as anyone else in the world for health care. No one in their right mind wants our system, unless their mind is truly right.

Remember in Sicko where Michael Moore is searching for a cashier in a British hospital? My SO got ill while we were in Britain (on the last day, we missed Rosslyn Chapel (tourist trap) and the Scottish National Gallery (I'm bummed) and we had to get her to a hospital. We asked the concierge to find us a cab and off we were into the wonderful world of the NHS. We got to the Queen Margaret Hospital in some unspellable Scottish small town and she checked in. Remembering the horror stories of ten-hour waits in US hospitals, we had the Sudoku book, lots to read, vallium, you name it, the wait was two hours. Literally, in two hours, she'd been seen, medicine prescribed, apologized to for the hospital's inability to provide her the medicine and sent on her way. She tried to check out, asking the registrar at the front desk where to do so. The registrar gave her a blank stare. Where do I pay, my SO asked. The registrar shook her head and said "You're done, you can go." No money changed hands for the visit. In the states, it costs you $500 to walk in the emergency room door.

Then came the prescription. We had the taxi driver take us to a pharmacy where my SO got the prescription filled. With apologies that they couldn't find a way to get the NHS to pay for it, the pharmacist charged us the 5 pounds (about $10) that every prescription in the UK costs. Everything from ibuprofen to chemotherapy.

She's better, was better almost immediately, in fact. We got back and she looked up the side effects of the medicine an American doctor had prescribed for carpal tunnel syndrome, a high-powered NSAID. It turns out the urological side effects exactly match her symptoms, which disappeared immediately as I mentioned above. She had skipped the drug that morning. The entire trip was quite instructional but unnecessary, the drug her American doctor had charged her $50 to prescribe was causing the problem.

I want a NHS badly.
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