Thursday, February 28, 2008

Britain's National Health Service Woes

A couple articles popped up in the news in the last day or two, showcasing some of the problems of Britain's socialized healthcare system--the kind of system that both Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama want to bring to the Unites States.

Dr. Nick Edwards, an Accident & Emergency department (A&E) physician in England, described yesterday in the Daily Mail (UK) the difficulties of providing proper care within a government bureaucracy.

As a doctor working in A&E, my only concern used to be how best to care for my patients. But in a target-obsessed NHS, looking after patients properly is becoming more and more difficult.

I would like to have spoken to [a patient's husband] for longer, or even taken a few minutes to gather my own thoughts.

But the days of a cup of tea and quiet reflection for A&E staff have gone and as soon as I was out of the room, the senior nurse told me that we had a number of patients who might breach their four-hour target set by the Government for being admitted to a ward or discharged.

One was an elderly lady with a broken hip - pain-relieving medications given earlier while we waited for her X-rays were only partially helping.

She needed an injection of local anaesthetic into the joint to numb the pain.

That takes time to do, but before I could start, without my say so, she was whisked off to the ward so she didn't breach the target.

Great for our targets and government figures; not so great for the patient, who went to the ward still in pain but in under four hours.

There's more, and it should be an eye-opener for those who want America's health system to go that route.

The other article is less about socialized medicine and more about the effects of multiculturalism on the health system. The Daily Mail reported yesterday about three cities in Britain where Muslim female medical students object to hygiene rules.

Health officials are having crisis talks with Muslim medical staff who have objected to hospital hygiene rules because of religious beliefs.

Medics in hospitals in at least three major English cities have refused to follow the regulations aimed at helping tackle superbugs because of their faith, it has been revealed.

Women medical students at Alder Hey children's hospital in Liverpool objected to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands and removing arm coverings in theatre, claiming it is regarded as immodest.

Some students have said that they would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, but hygiene experts said no exceptions should be made on religious grounds.

This is a preview of what could come here as well. So far, the three British cities haven't backed down on their hygiene requirements, although the University of Liverpool has accomodated the students' request for a separate room where they can change from their hijabs into scrubs. I presume they're scrubbing up to their elbows as they change.

As we look at out choices for the presidency, for some voters it can be tempting to have medical care provided "free" to everyone. But the example in the UK isn't the utopia that proponents of socialized medicine would have us believe. Let's not be fooled by a political whitewash, but instead look at the truth of what government-run medical care would give us.

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