I had a stomach ache coming home on the plane this weekend from vacation in Costa Rica and I couldn't tell if it was from coming back online (literally as well as figuratively) to America's prescription drug woes and our crappy healthcare system (of which I am a part), the unwashed fruit I had for breakfast in Costa Rica, or the magazine I was reading on the plane. You see the March 16, 2008, issue of Forbes magazine had a cover title called "Stop That Patient!" about how large general hospitals have infection and mortality rates that can be up to four fold higher than specialty hospitals that focus on specific problems, like angioplasty or hip replacement.
I mean we all get so excited about pills that 'slash' the risk of heart attack by 25%-- how about if I told you I had a pill for you that would reduce your risk of dying by 400%? You'd be pretty excited about that one, right? And what's the difference if you die under the knife or keel over with chest pain while riding in your golf cart? You're dead just the same.
But what was most upsetting about this article was the hijinks that the large hospitals are trying to go through to squash the smaller guys, using arguments like "conflict of interest" because the smaller hospitals are owned by physicians. In answer to the question, shouldn't healthcare consumers be able to comparison shop hospitals?
A representative of the large hospitals said that consumers shouldn't get that information because they wouldn't know how to use it properly. Indeed!
The sad fact is that they are succeeding. These smaller, safer hospitals are getting closed down, thanks to your congressman, who doesn't care if it is killing you (literally).
Did you ever get the feeling that our "civic leaders" spend most of their time talking out of both sides of their mouths? When it is in their interest they are only too glad to extol the benefits of capitalism and what they call the American way, but when it goes against their pocket books... They extol the benefits of capitalism and the American way! (and distort reality to their benefit).
Most of the time we are shoveled a lot of malarkey about how we are in a Democracy (your vote counts) based on Capitalism (true competition is good for business). However, we aren't. It is actually a Corpocracy (meaning the corporations have more power than you do and they chum up to one another to make sure all of their collective interests are being pursued while pretending to compete, and they don't care a rat's ass about whether someone in Mexico is getting your job).
Whew! Glad I got that one off of my chest.
J. Douglas Bremner M.D. is author of Before You Take That Pill: Why The Drug Industry May Be Bad For Your Health