Sunday, February 12, 2006

Health and the lack of it.

I started writing something about our adventures last week, but in all honesty it’s still a little too fresh in my mind, so I really can’t do so in a way that’s either funny or not traumatic (for me).

The long and the short of it is that last Thursday Paula was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. She and Erika had to spend five l-o-n-g days in the hospital. They gave her drugs, they took blood from her, they did loads of things which are difficult enough for a toddler (or even me) to cope with, let alone a 6 week old, and yet she did just fine.

So instead of writing of my trauma and fear and all that stuff, and hence reliving it, I thought I’d discuss the Romanian health care system. Now in the last 7 weeks Erika and Paula have spent a total of 10 days in hospitals – 5 days for happy reasons and 5 for the pneumonia. Thus I have also spent a considerable time in hospitals too. (I use the plural because Paula was born in Udvarhely (Odorheiu), but treated last week here in Csikszereda.)

Hospitals here really look like hospitals. I mean dingy, grey, concrete corridors lit with fluorescent tubes. No comforts (though there was a kind of torn up couch in the visiting area of the pediatric section of the hospital here.). The food is rubbish. At the hospital here, Erika and Paula shared their room with a small brown mouse. So, the initial impression is not exactly positive.

But there are good points too. The most obvious one (to me) is that there is no desperate profit motive driving most of the decisions. Paula was born perfectly normally and she and Erika stayed 5 days in the hospital. A friend of Erika’s had a baby around the same time in the US and despite having to have a caesarean (not a planned one either) she was in and out in two days. Now it’s nice to get home to your family and all that, but I reckon the system whereby money is not a factor in decisions related to health is a better one. A much better one. This time around the moment the doctor had examined her, they were admitted immediately (and there was no question that Erika would be able to stay with her in the same room), and she was kept under constant observation until she was really ready to go home.

Now there are some things in life that “the market” does a fairly good job of regulating and ensuring needs are met efficiently. But there are other areas, like health care and education where it really doesn’t. The US is a great example of this. It probably has the best health care in the world (in terms of doctors, equipment, modern well equipped hospitals etc), but has a terrible system of access to that great health care. And if people are being kicked out of hospitals two days after having a caesarian, there’s got to be some flaw in the system. There is a famously held belief that the best health care system in the Americas is that of Cuba. (I have no idea what this means – how do you measure best health care system? – to me the best health care system would be a public health based one in which fewer people got sick in the first place. And, since it seems to be necessary whenever you write anything on the internet, I am not therefore saying that Cuba has a better political system than the US. OK?).

Having lived in the States, I never had any major issues with healthcare, but I did spend days and days on hold on the phone trying to ensure that everything that insurance companies were supposed to cough up on my behalf was coughed up. There seems to be a suspicion of the idea of people actually getting the treatment they need. The insurance companies press doctors into shifting the sick out as quickly as possible. And when it’s all about profit and money and shareholders and all that, that’s inevitable. And when it comes down to it, despite the mouse, and the ugliness, I’d rather my family were treated in a hospital in which they will be kept under observation as long as is necessary.

In case this is seen as “yet another” Anti-American post, I think it’s pretty bad in the UK too. The NHS used to be the envy of much of the world, but then Thatcher came with her peculiar brand of anti-compassion, and then she was followed by that neo-liberal lying scumbag Blair, and now we have this half arsed system attempting to be “efficient” and “responsive” and (of course) offering “choice”, all of which seems to mean that once again people (sick people) are treated like figures on a balance sheet rather than being given the treatment they need.

The other major issue regarding healthcare around the world is the flow of qualified professionals from poorer to richer countries. British doctors go to work in the US. Hungarian doctors go to Western Europe. Transylvanian Hungarian doctors have gone to Hungary – they speak the language, and the money and conditions are better. I presume some doctors from other parts of Romania go to Germany or France or somewhere. And are replaced by Moldovans? The people in these wealthy countries who protest about immigration ought to have their bluff called. Don’t let the teachers and doctors and nurses in and see how they like it then.

No idea where I’m going with all this (I bet you can tell can’t you?), so I’ll wind up by reassuring you that Paula is on the mend. Still coughs occasionally and has lost some weight through it all, but is improving daily. And we have the doctor’s mobile number in case we have an emergency. And she’s looking cuter than ever.

1 comment:

David Weman said...