Victims left for hours covered in blood, denied pain relief; elderly cancer patients lying in their own filth; dirty, chaotic wards akin to "war zones"; a shortage of basic equipment, including trolleys and thermometers; shouting nurses; ill-trained, badly supervised medics; disease outbreaks; starvation and dehydration; mounting piles of dead…
Scenes from a hospital in war torn Chechnya, perhaps? Mugabe’s Zimbabwe? Romania in the days of Ceaucescu? The aftermath of Antietam? The Middle Ages?
Why, no. This was an English hospital the day before yesterday. And the day after tomorrow — if President Obama gets his way — it could well be an American hospital too.
All too often when I tell my U.S. friends just how dire the state of our nationalized health care system is in Britain, they assume I must be exaggerating for effect. "But we’ve English friends who tell us that it’s the Envy of The World," some of them say (of which more later). "Come on, it can’t be that bad. At least it’s fair, and at least it’s for free," say others.
Then consider, my friends, Exhibit A. The foul sub-third-world conditions I’ve just described came not from my overactive imagination but from a newly-published official report into the parlous state of affairs at two state-run hospitals in the central English district of Mid Staffordshire.
According to the report by the Healthcare Commission, standards of care were so "appalling" that between 2005 and 2008 as many as 1,200 patients may have died unnecessarily.
You should see the photo shrine the victim’s families have erected on one of the walls inside the hospital — like a mini-9/11 memorial; it’s a heartbreaking sight. There are pictures of the loved ones while they were still smiling and healthy, their dates written underneath. And there are printed sheets detailing some of the myriad ways they suffered and died:
- "Medication not monitored for side effects."
- "Staff shouting, squealing and laughing throughout the night disturbing patients"
- "Patients not helped to the toilet, told to use a bed pan — staff too busy."
- "Patients not fed or given fluids — food trays just left on the table out of reach."
It has been described by the National Health Service’s medical director as a "gross and terrible breach of trust" of patients, though why he should be so shocked is anybody’s guess. It’s not as though this sort of thing hasn’t happened in Britain’s magnificent "free" healthcare system many, many times before.
This, remember, is the "service" so poor that 55 per cent of senior doctors take out private medical insurance so they don’t have to use it; the one where one in 300 hospital deaths is the result of a patient contracting an infection completely unrelated to the one they came in to have treated; where the cancer survival rates are the worst in the civilized world; where more patients die in hospital in a year — 40,000 — than were killed in the 2006 Iraqi civil war.
Oh, and it’s also, let’s not forget the "service" that costs the UK taxpayer £100 billion (about $140 billion) a year. That’s roughly three times what we allocate for defense; and £20 billion less than we spend on our entire education system.
And if it costs that much in Britain, imagine how much more it’s going to cost a country with five times our population size. Yes, I’m sorry, America: that means you.
Just four months ago, when I was writing my book Welcome to Obamaland: I’ve Seen Your Future and it Doesn’t Work, I poured scorn on presidential candidate Obama’s electioneering claim that his universal healthcare program would cost no more than $50 billion to $65 billion.
"If it costs you anything less than ten times that amount," I predicted, "Then I am Dr. Howard Dean’s right testicle. His left one too: I’m that confident."
Fortunately for my wife and those others who have to look at me every day, it seems that I am indeed neither of the good doctor’s testes. Already, Obama has set aside $634 billion of the federal budget to pay for your healthcare overhaul. And believe me, my friends, that will just be the beginning. As we’ve discovered to our cost on my side of the Atlantic, "free universal healthcare" is a gaping maw which is not only incapable of being satisfied, but, worse, actually seems to get uglier and more voracious the more money you chuck into it.
In its twelve years in office, Britain’s socialist Labor government doubled its spending on the NHS — allocating it another pounds £269 billion above the rate of inflation. Yet the waiting lists are just as long; the wards are filthier, more overcrowded and disease-ridden; and patient survival rates continue to plummet.
It’s at this point that I ought to anticipate some of the comments which will appear at the bottom of this piece from one or two rose-tinted British readers. "Come off it," they’ll protest. "It may be a basic service but at least it offers free healthcare at the point of
need, unlike in fascist America where if you haven’t got insurance they leave you to die on the street…." or "How dare you insult our hardworking nurses" or "If it hadn’t been for the wondrous NHS my beautiful, blue eyed child…" etc.
Yeah, yeah, all right so the NHS doesn’t actually manage to murder every patient which crosses its threshold. Sure, its doctors and nurses can be nurturing and caring, but — duh — that’s why they joined the medical profession rather than becoming, say, serial killers or
professional torturers in the service of Kim Jong Il.
But I should warn American readers to take the surprisingly widespread British affection towards the NHS with a hefty pinch of salt. It’s a legacy of wartime rationing, I suspect. Or twelve years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The authentically cowed, pathetically grateful voice of a nation which has lived too long under the yoke of European-style socialism and forgotten what service and quality and value for money mean.
Which I’m afraid, America, is now the fate that awaits you under your terrifyingly ambitious "progressive" president. "Oh, c’mon. We know what we’re doing. We’re never going to make the same mistakes here," the people in charge of your new health program will reassure you.
Oh really? So you’ve, what, just invented this amazing new paradigm where a "service" run by big government doesn’t result in massive waste, inefficiency, and tier upon tier of bureaucracy?
Don’t make me laugh. The reason your president’s universal healthcare program is going to fail is the same reason most state-run systems fail: because big government can never allocate resources as efficiently as the lean, mean private sector can. Because big
government doesn’t care about people, only about systems. Because the bureaucrats and time-servers and coverers-up and apparatchiks that big government attracts are the very last people in the world you want in charge of something as important as your health, your well-being, your precious life.
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