Tuesday, September 18, 2012

28. The VA Hospital System

Ever wonder what government-run healthcare will be like? Well, wonder no
more! We already have it in this country—it’s the Veteran’s Administration
Hospital system—the VA! I did years of my medical training in this system, and I
have colleagues that are working there today. Let’s take a look at this marvel of
government-run healthcare:

The bureaucracy is unmatched in my 25 years of medical training and practice.
Patients may spend years trying to get access to care, even if it’s related to
active duty during wartime—just ask our Viet Nam vets who were exposed
to Agent Orange. At our local VA hospital, the wait time for spine surgery by
a neurosurgeon is up to 16 months. That’s right up there with the Canadian
healthcare system.

The VA hospitals are staffed by government employees—low-level administrators,
nursing staff, clerks…many with the work ethic we’ve come to appreciate at the
DMV. The process for hiring new nurses, for instance, may take over 3 months—
just to get thru the normal channels of command. No quality nurse is going to
endure that sort of run-around when she can get a great job at a private hospital
within a week.

Now, try to fire a government employee—good luck! Is this the atmosphere you
want surrounding you when you need medical attention, when you’re at your
most vulnerable, treatment that may determine whether you live or die?

When I was a radiology resident, we had to get special permission to use a
contrast agent for CAT scans that was well-proven to cause fewer allergic
reactions than the older-version. All of the private hospitals used this more
expensive, but much safer, contrast agent as routine. But not the VA—it was
cheaper for the government to take a chance that my patient would have a
severe, perhaps life-threatening, allergic reaction. That’s how the government
makes healthcare decisions.

Supporters of Obamacare claim that opponents are just speculating when they
criticize the notion of government-run healthcare. The fact is, we don’t have to
guess—we just look at the VA hospital.

(Note: This commentary is by Dr. Jill Vecchio.)

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