Healthcare Policy Roundup – June 2, 2009


EMTs – “we bring the emergency room to your living room.” Cool article that makes you think about how much these guys and gals are underappreciated.

Want to get first hand experience of what it’s like in the ED? Try the newest game for the Wii and DS – Hysteria Hospital: Emergency Ward. Players will have to reach desperate patients and demanding doctors within a set period of time. The frenzy inside the hospital will increase as the game progresses with more and more demanding patients desperate to be cured!” And that’s a challenge … how? We do it every day.

According to a report by Families USA, insured families pay a “hidden tax” of more than $1017 to pay for health care of the uninsured.

That hidden tax isn’t cutting it in Washington State, though. Washington’s legislature just enacted $1 billion in health care spending cuts that will leave almost 40,000 additional people without care, including elderly patients, the disabled, children who need vaccinations, and those who need drug treatment.

Back to problems with emergency care in the Canadian system. Snooore … right? But look at the similarities to the US system. There is a shortage of primary care physicians in “almost every community in Ontario.” Many patients are now crowding into the emergency departments “for care that they would normally get from their family doctors.” What’s the Canadian government doing about it? They’re throwing more money into the emergency care system to “add physician assistants to emergency rooms” (i.e. encouraging more people to come to the emergency department for routine care); “improve information technology” (i.e. implement EMRs that decrease productivity and decrease patient throughput); and promote health-care alternatives to the emergency room (i.e. doing exactly what the University of Chicago got blasted for doing in the media). Be interesting to see how this experiment plays out.

Have an emergency in Canada? “Don’t bring a book, bring a library.” The average stay in a Montreal emergency departments has decreased to only 19 hours and 48 minutes. At Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, the average stay is 34 hours 18 minutes. But the care is free, right?

The medical system in South Africa is also collapsing. Public sector physicians are working more than 80 hours per month overtime and government pay is less than adequate. Experienced specialists are “leaving the public sector and moving to the private, leaving very few top senior specialists to continue training us and improving the standards of care in South Africa.” The public is stating that physicians should choose to study medicine “because of the greater cause — to help people” and that the physicians should not be fighting for more money. In other words, the public expects that some of the brightest students in the country pay for 8 years of education, then work at less than minimum wage during their internship and residency, and go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt so that they can then treat people for free. Yeah, that will work real well.
Flash forward 10-15 years and this public/private battle is what I foresee happening in the US.

Aussie courts don’t put up with any crap. A patient went to the emergency department there complaining of back pain, yelled at the staff after not being seen for several hours, then called the Australian equivalent of “911” four times demanding that police come to the hospital to intervene on his behalf. The last time he called, he threatened to kill the 911 operator.
He was arrested and fined $1500. The judge stated that “The hospital staff have a difficult enough job to do without patients being intoxicated and causing extra trouble.” Booyah!


  1. Only $1500 dollars for a death threat? Since you guys are essentially engaged in public service in a potentially violent enviroment they should impose the same penalties that people receive for threatening police officers or firemen.

  2. I agree with midwest woman that the penalty should be more, but Australia is still a bright spot in an otherwise depressing list.

  3. W-o-w…GO AUSSIES! THATS the way it *should be*.


    There’s a lot of interesting links there but just had to comment because it seems like the bad guys/idiots get away with abusing others. Nice to see some enforced respect with accountability and recognition for the hardworking staff. Good example set.

    WC..looking forward to the continuation of your malpractice case. 🙂

  4. I trust few reports by advocacy groups, like “Families USA” claiming this cost or that cost by not doing what they advocate.

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