Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Humble Experience with British Healthcare

In the Summer of 1981, I was a student with The Virginia Program at Oxford. The Renaissance, Shakespeare, Spenser and such. From Sweet Briar College to St. Anne's College at Oxford University, England. Princess Diana was married that summer and I got the education of a lifetime. A structurally different educational system, travel, foreign culture and a peak at what a Government run, National Health Care System looks like. As most of my readers can imagine, any government run anything is neither proficient, nor professional and never even mind half way perfect. I have two stories to share regarding my observations that summer.

First Story:
As 'of age' students, we tended to be the first patrons for a few 'half-pints' a few nights a week across the street at the local pub. We got to know the young couple that had just bought the pub and lived upstairs. The husband bar tended and tended the building maintenance including the flowered window boxes and small garden out front. The wife was the waitress, cooked the buffet meal offered to patrons for dinner and had two small children. They were open 7 days a week.
The wife once told us she once went to the local public Clinic to be seen for a bad flu. This young couple could not afford a private doctor like other business owners and the rich in England. The receptionist told her it wold be a 2 week wait to see the doctor. No doctor, no prescription for medicine. She replied to the receptionist: "In 2 weeks, with the flu, I will either be well or dead." So, she left the public clinic with no help, not even an aspirin and suffered through the flu, working the entire time at the Pub and taking care of the kids. Eventually, she was well. She commented that as soon as she and her husband could afford it, they were going to subscribe to a private GP.

Second Story:
One of my classmates broke her arm and a few of us went with her to the local hospital down the street. I remember the 1/2 day wait in the ER, the over crowded waiting area looked like a third world airport. Everyone sitting on the floor, patients on stretchers in the hallways. The patients also had the old red rubber IV tubing, instead of the modern clear plastic tubing. I noticed the antique radiators with the old lead paint peeling off of them. Then noticed the old thin lead pipes near the ceilings also peeling, probably from The Great War (WWI). No renovations for the last 70 years in this Oxford hospital. Never even mind any modern equipment or conveniences.

One of our rich friends here in the US pays $4,000.00 per year for the privilege of having a private doctor come to his house, 24/7. If America is going to decide to enter into a 2 tiered health care system, you are going to get the health care you can afford. Private doctors for the rich and public clinics for everyone else. Does America really want to enter into this new age of health care?

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