Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Socialized Medicine - No Thanks

While in Great Britain I had the chance to talk to people about the National Health Service there. The truth is that it isn't so great. First of all, many people carry private pay insurance, even though they also pay massive taxes to support NHS. So the system has really created a dual system: one for the "haves" which allows them to obtain good care via private pay and one for the "have-nots" who get state care which apparently is not so great. People end up going out of the country for surgical procedures because they just can't wait forever to get the surgeries done. So you have people going abroad to have hip surgeries, etc. People who smoke or are fat are despised in society because they are potential "drains" to the system.

I came across this article which talks about the crisis in maternity care in the UK because the shortage of staff and facilities on maternity wards has reached a "crisis" point.
The Royal College of Obstetricians is warning of a lack of skilled obstetricians and a looming recruitment crisis as the number of UK medical graduates choosing obstetrics has halved in a decade. A shortage of skilled obstetricians on the wards has led to a rise in emergency Caesareans, performed because of a failure to progress in labour, which now account for more than a third of all Caesareans. (The rest are planned.) The RCOG says many emergency Caesareans could be avoided if more consultants skilled in managing difficult labours were available.
Britain's maternal death rate at 7.31 per 100,000 births in 2000-04 is above the EU average at 6.84, according to the World Health Organization. (The US actually has a higher maternal death rate though). Specialists fear that the disaster at Northwick Park hospital, where 10 mothers died in childbirth in five years, well above the national average, might be repeated elsewhere.

Regarding midwife shortages: A poll of 102 out of 216 department heads found that two-thirds said their units were understaffed and one in five said they had lost staff in the past year.

One reason why there is a shortage of midwives is this: Midwives are being underpaid by NHS. Doctors claim that only one midwife in three is working at any time, as more choose to work part-time for private agencies, which supply staff to the NHS to cover holidays, sickness and unsocial hours. A midwife working long hours could potentially earn up to £80,000 a year at agency rates compared with £24,000 to £26,000 for the NHS.

As hospital trusts have run into financial difficulties over the past two years, they have cut back on agency staff leaving their own staff to cover. Agency midwives have chosen not to go back to working for NHS rates.

Obstetrics is a high-risk specialty and there is always a fear that babies will be born brain damaged if things go wrong. Obstetrics accounts for the highest proportion of clinical negligence claims against the NHS with pay outs running into millions of pounds.

Bottomline: Staff shortages are putting pregnancies at risk. Additionally, birthrates are rising due in part to rising immigration and children being born in UK facilities to parents who are not UK citizens.

But Gee Whiz... doesn't this all sound familiar? I know CT is experiencing a huge nursing shortage because there aren't enough teachers to teach nursing and people are not getting into the field because nurses just do not get paid enough for the long hours they put in. OB-GYN doctors are also leaving the field because of the high cost of malpractice insurance because of huge malpractice awards. We also have illegal immigrants using our social welfare system and that is costing US taxpayers enormous amounts of money.

Looks like socialized medicine hasn't solved the problems, and the taxpayers foot the entire bill to boot!

I'll keep private pay.. give Medicaid (federal and state aid) to those that really really need it. At least we get the surgeries we need without having to go out of the country due to long waiting lists.

Government and medicine really do not mix.


David Aron said...

Spot on!

Lisa Giebitz said...

This country does have government-run medical care - for military personnel and their families. From my experience with it I can say that sometimes it works pretty well and sometimes I just want to pull my hair out and scream.

I try not to complain TOO much though - I mean, we don't pay anything out of pocket, heh.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, many people carry private pay insurance..."

Sources? How many people? I was only able to find a 2000 report that listed the number at 11.5%. The data is seven years old, but what percentage would you assign to the term 'many'? I certainly don't think even 25% would be valid.

Also, of what percentage of these PMI holders only have Travel insurance for traveling to countries where there is no National Heathcare System?