Rationing in the ER

Interesting post at Democratic Underground. A man brought his mother to the ER with chest pain, and pitched a fit when they tried to send her home. More tests showed she had an aneurism.

What really gets hot is the comments section, with other people telling horror stories of their own, including a doctor who says that women do not get taken seriously.

My mother-in-law brought her son to the ER with abdominal pain and was told to take him home and give him some aspirin. She refused to leave, and it turned out he had appendicitis. She saved his life in the 1960′s by standing up to white doctors in a Southern hospital and telling them that she was his mother and she knew her son was having an emergency.

Every so often some appalling story of callous indifference in the ER hits the press. Though you find bad people in every profession and workplace, I don’t think it’s just individuals. Economic rationing depends on volume, and you have to move the patients through the same as customers in a fast-food restaurant. No matter how many non-discrimination notices they put up– everyone knows who has what insurance. Too much time spent on the care of the underinsured will not get you promoted.

We have to some day have some tough, reality-based discussions about finite resources and make decisions on how much of our national wealth to spend on health care. There are many other urgent needs.

But don’t think that there’s not rationing going on now. Don’t think that showing up with chest pain and a famous name is the same as showing up with only your pain and your need. Democratic Underground has opened up a forum for stories about the gaps in our emergency system.

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2 responses

  1. There is simply too many people seeking routine medical care at the emergency rooms-insured and not. One demographic that overuses the facilities are the medicaid and medicare insured elderly.

    And thank you for mentioning my blog here, much appreciated!

  2. You’re welcome. You see the problem first-hand. I see my mission in home care as providing the low-tech care and education that keeps people out of the hospital. Part of that is helping people to access their primary care doctor. The medicare/medicaide elderly patients are my specialty, and I’m doing my best to help them learn how to prevent emergencies and avoid going to the ER for problems better treated in their doctor’s office.
    I’m very happy that we have emergency services. Thank you for what you do.

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