I have a lot of fears in life: sharks, heights, wrinkles, government controlling my healthcare.
Recently, the New York Times provided plenty of fodder supporting the latter anxiety, revealing the results of a study it conducted that examined the disparities between public and private healthcare at the height of the pandemic in New York City. The disparities included staffing levels, differences in the age and type of equipment available, and access to drugs and experimental treatments. As one might guess, patients at the city’s community facilities fared far worse than those in private facilities, with their mortality rate 3 times higher in some cases.
All hospitals saw higher staff-to-patient ratios than best practices would recommend. In a typical emergency room, that figure should look like 1 nurse for every 4 patients. But during COVID-19, private facilities experienced ratios closer to 1 nurse for every 6 to 7 patients. At the government hospitals, that number was 1 nurse for every 10 to 15, and at times even 20 patients.
Less time per patient meant fewer tests, less information, and less monitoring. Several patients woke up from medically induced comas and, in confusion, removed their oxygen masks, leading to death. This occurred at the Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where staff referred to the patients as “bathroom codes” as their bodies were typically discovered near the bathroom 30 to 45 minutes later. One doctor told the New York Times that for every 10 deaths he saw, two to three patients could have been saved with the proper care.
You might not think it could get worse, but it does. In response to the overcrowding, the city quickly put up makeshift hospitals. We now know those facilities were barely used. The paper looked at the hospital set up at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to study why this occurred. Though the center was equipped with 470 beds and hundreds of employees (many of them out-of-state healthcare providers being paid handsomely), it ultimately saw only 79 patients and closed its doors after one month. It was a catastrophic failure, the kind only government can pull off.
There were multiple problems here. First, doctors were forced into a spiderweb of red tape upon arrival. They were given ridiculous amounts of paperwork, orientations, and training on computers, tying up their time during the height of the disease.
Secondly, city officials went back and forth on the criteria for who could be admitted to the overflow hospitals and gave conflicting data to providers on which patients to transfer. They landed on 25 exclusionary criteria that blocked patients, with symptoms such as fever from being moved. A fever is, of course, one of the primary symptoms of COVID-19.
They also implemented rules that blocked the admittance of patients with symptoms deemed not severe enough. This resulted in many COVID-19 patients quarantining and dying in hotel rooms without access to care.
It still gets worse. The public hospitals had exclusive agreements with ambulance providers that amounted to cronyism. When a person called 911, the ambulance providers had to take that person to the overrun contracted facilities, which then, by law, had to admit and triage the patient and then try to transfer the patient to an overflow hospital. The tennis center had ambulances in wait, but not just any ambulance could transfer the patient. You guessed it: Patients had to wait for an ambulance from crony providers, leading to fewer patients being moved. Doctors and nurses, some paid up to $2,000 per day, reported that they were left to sit on their phones while people died across the street, all due to government corruption, cronyism, and bureaucracy.
Are you mad yet? I am. The city has already paid over $52 million in this arrangement, and it’s still paying. The report estimates this one facility might end up costing over $100 million when all is said and done, all for 79 patients. It’s a truly horrific report and reinforces what people like me have known for some time: The government should never run healthcare.
In fact, government is directly responsible for the problems we already have in our healthcare system. We overburden doctors and nurses with regulations, hoops to jump through, and bureaucracy, reducing the number of patients they can see per day and driving up their costs to be in business. When they can see fewer patients, each patient must pay more to cover those costs.
The cronyism in healthcare is also abundant. As with the ambulance providers, governments grant exclusive contracts to providers in all sorts of areas. This removes competition from the market, leading to higher costs and less innovation. That’s not capitalism, guys. On a good day, this kind of government involvement in the market means higher healthcare costs. In bad times, people die as the market’s hands are tied.
Why would we ever want to compound the problems in our system with more of what created them, namely government involvement? Instead, we should want to see a model where everyone can afford quality, private care, and that only happens when we get the government out of the market. We should fight for it like our lives depend on it, because they do.
Author: Hannah Cox
Source: Washington Examiner: New York’s failure to use emergency hospitals is another reason to distrust government healthcare