Leave them on the Ice Floe to Die: Post Hospitalization Health Care in the United States

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Thank you all for your expressions of support, kind thoughts, positive waves, and prayers over the past few weeks. My wife Judy is doing well, her wound is no longer draining, the sutures are healing and it looks like her staples will come out Monday. She is pretty much able to take care of herself and it looks like she will have a good number of visitors while I am in Gettysburg.

Now this has been an interesting experience. You see when someone leaves the hospital after major surgery insurance companies, even good ones are loath to pay for any in-home care, so everything falls on the family of the person, in our case since we don’t have 19 kids to saddle with the work, that person is me. In fact for most people the work falls on their spouse or their significant other, or possibly a teenage kid.

Now I am lucky, I am a fairly senior military officer and I work in an academic setting where I do not have to deploy and have a command that is very supportive of whatever time I need to care for Judy. I don’t have to worry about my paycheck getting docked ort losing my job. Sadly, a majority of Americans have to worry about that if their family member is sick, or needs post surgery care. I think that is a terrible situation if you ask me; condemn Europeans as socialists who pay too much in taxes, but at least they get something for what they pay, most European countries have effective health care and social service systems that do not let people fall through the crack.

For a nation that considers itself the pinnacle of humanitarianism and which is supposedly “pro-life” the situation is shameful, and frankly I think we should be ashamed. We are not pro-life at all, even the people that call themselves that tend to be pro-birth and the hell with you after that, unless you are rich.

Interestingly enough the Commonwealth Fund, hardly a liberal institution, ranked the United States 11th of 11 developed western countries in terms of health care, including accessibility and outcomes, of course all of those countries are willing to have universal health care, and sorry even Obamacare is not socialized medicine, it is simply a modified version of the Heritage Foundation’s plan that they touted over a decade ago and similar to Romneycare. It still keeps the insurance companies in control of most healthcare decisions. If you want to see where the United States ranks here is the listing:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Switzerland
  3. Sweden
  4. Australia
  5. Germany & Netherlands (tied)
  6. New Zealand & Norway (tied)
  7. France
  8. Canada
  9. United States

The link to the Forbes Magazine article where you can find the report is here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/06/16/u-s-healthcare-ranked-dead-last-compared-to-10-other-countries/

But anyway, I digress. When a person leaves the hospital the family, with very few exceptions is lead to fend for themselves. Post hospital prescriptions may be covered by insurance, ours are, but nothing else is. If you need surgical pads, gauze, bandages, antiseptic wipes or a host of other potential needs, they come out of your pocket, thankfully mine are deep enough to handle these expenses, but think of the person who lives paycheck to paycheck and because they have to take unpaid leave are not getting a paycheck during their loved one’s illness.

When your loved one is recovering you become all the things that the hospital provides while they are an inpatient. You are nursing services, you get to check, clean and dress their wounds, make sure they get their medicines and monitor them for anything that might be going wrong. Now for me this is not a problem, I have a significant amount of medical background as a Medical Service Corps officer in the Army as well as a hospital chaplain working trauma, critical-care and ICUs. Blood, guts, bodily fluids, I can handle them; spot infection, got it; change dressings, and do other things that gross people out, can do. Again, I am lucky; I have training and experience but sadly when most people leave the hospital their untrained and inexperienced relatives get to do this. The family also is the nursing aid, the dietary service, rehab service, housekeeping and laundry service. It is a full time job, which most families are not, trained to deal with and many do not have the resources to do. Let’s say that because they have to pay rent the caregiver has to leave the recovering patient alone, they are hosed unless perhaps a friend or neighbor volunteers to do this, once again at no cost to the insurance company of the health care system.

For those that do not think that nurses earn their money they are sadly mistaken, nursing is hard, it is physical and emotional. I know why nurses only work 3-4 days before they get a break, it is demanding. Judy often tells me from previous experiences with me as her nurse that I graduated from the Leave Them on the Ice Floe to Die School of Nursing. Now with global warming and the ice flows all melting I had no place to put her so I really had to work hard. Actually, I didn’t mind it, I wanted to make sure that there were no complications and that nothing happened to her I really worked hard to care for her, and I wanted to do it. However, that being said that is what our health care system does to people when it puts them out of hospital, it leaves them and their families out on the ice flow and sadly the ice floes are disappearing. We need to really change how we do health care in this country before they are gone.

PearlsBeforeSwine-28Oct2013

 

So anyway, I am now on the way to Gettysburg to lead 20 students as well as some faculty and family members on my third staff ride of the year. Tomorrow and Sunday I will be out and about the battlefield teaching. I’ll post something short tomorrow night.

Again thank you and blessings

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, News and current events, Political Commentary

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