My day at the hospital.
So I ended up spending a majority of my Memorial Day in the Emergency Room of my local hospital, after an unfortunate accident involving a pink flamingo lawn ornament and a spork. While I sat there, watching re-runs of Deadliest Catch for approximately four hours, I came to recognize a few things about my surroundings. First, there were a lot of people sitting in the Emergency Room with me. Second, only about 10% of them appeared to be in any great danger of dying in the next 24-48 hours.
Accompanying me on my trip to the hospital was my loving wife. Now, you may accuse me of unnecessarily burdening her with having to sit in the Emergency Room during her Memorial Day. Not so. I had previously promised her that I would get her away from the kids as a Mother’s Day gift. Mission accomplished. Also, I needed her to hold the spork. As we sat there together, I commented to her that none of these people seemed to be experiencing an “emergency.” She nodded in agreement. In fact, most of the people there seemed to be having a fabulous time. They were talking and laughing and some were even barbequing, all while watching their children run around. My wife, bless her optimistic heart, advised me that just because I couldn’t see an ailment doesn’t mean one didn’t exist. For example, maybe the young girl running around without any shoes on and a bloody band-aid hanging from her big toe was actually bleeding internally. I agreed that it was possible. But it seemed unlikely that all of the aforementioned 90% were suffering from an invisible malady.
I had a better suggestion. I concluded that most of these people were not, in fact, suffering from an emergency. I’d even say that most of the people just needed to go home, pop a Xanax, and take a nap. Heck, some of the people were probably there simply to enjoy free air-conditioning and the Discovery Channel.
And then it dawned on me: this is a huge problem with our healthcare system. Contrary to the belief of the woman waiting for her Valtrex re-fill, the Emergency Room is not a replacement for a primary care physician. An Emergency Room costs a lot more to operate than a primary care physician. An Emergency Room is for people actually in the middle of an emergency, as opposed to those suffering from indigestion due to having one too many tacos. Unfortunately, instead of identifying those without actual emergencies, and giving them the number for “Hypochondriacs Anonymous,” hospitals have simply caved to the demands of the
The ER I was visiting had two separate sections, for two separate patients, with two separate groups of doctors: a family practice physician wing and a “crap his eyes are bleeding” wing. There shouldn’t be a family practice physician wing. The family practice people only hinder the “crap his eyes are bleeding” people. Appointments should be made with the family practice physician ahead of time. Of course, the problem is the people utilizing the ER as a family practice either don’t have their own doctor or they feel too entitled to make an appointment. Oh, and our system doesn’t require them to.
Instead, we allow anybody who feels the need to clog up our emergency rooms to do so. And in addition to the clogging, you have the significant group of people that won’t even be paying their bill. Instead, I’ll be picking up the tab. So not only do I have to be delayed by a line of people with runny noses, I have to pay for the doctor who gets to tell them they have runny noses.
America’s health care is the best in the world. The way in which it is delivered is not. What’s the fix? Well, it involves a combination of changing medical insurance and getting rid of the deadbeats. For example, people should be compelled to keep their non-emergency at home, and call their doctor for an appointment. If they still want to bring their non-emergency in, then they have to pay a significant fee on the spot. Now, I’m not telling everyone to pay that fee on the spot. Obviously if little Billy lost an arm in a freak snow-blowing accident he should get immediate care and worry about bill later. But if Billy only has a 102 degree temp that is controlled by over the counter meds, Billy’s mom better be paying up front.
Of course, the entire healthcare debate emanates from the nonsensical belief that healthcare is a right that no one should have to pay for and doctors and nurses constitute the only profession known to mankind that should provide their services for free. In fact, that’s the whole reason why people use the ER as a primary care physician. The ER has to treat you, regardless of how minor your issue is, even if you can’t pay for it. A better option is to spin a wheel upon your arrival, and if you hit a whammy, your condition is not considered an emergency and you have to either go home or pay up front. Not only would it be more efficient, it would add to the intrigue of spending the day at the ER.