Healthcare in America

This time around in the U.S., I got to have a firsthand experience of the highly praised American healthcare system. My mother, now an ailing almost ninety-year-old, had to be admitted to a hospital because her blood test showed high calcium levels. A call to 911 resulted in a fire brigade truck and an ambulance at our door. Five hulky six-plus-footers in uniforms, carrying their emergency tools, took over the proceedings. In no time at all, they had wheeled my mother on a stretcher into the ambulance, which took off for Florida Hospital, some fifteen minutes away.

We followed in our car, and waited in the lobby of the emergency department. A short while later, the receptionist called out my mother’s name and asked us to go to hall “A”. A nurse was in the process of taking my mother’s blood for the required tests. Then, she was taken into a room fitted with lots of sophisticated technological stuff, and we were asked to wait for the test results before being admitted into the hospital. A doctor came by, he was the hospitalist, a five-foot-something Sri Lankan, and spoke a few words with us. A signboard in the room stated that the hospital respected the importance of our time, and had listed the times taken for different tests results.

By and by, we were admitted into a room in the medical department that had two beds. The beds were more than just “beds”, though; they were more like complete life-sustaining systems, with a lot of automation involved. During the four days of my mother’s stay there, she was visited by four-five doctors, half-a-dozen nurses, a similar number of nursing assistants, a dietician, and one pastor and two chaplains, who prayed for her wellbeing. Florida Hospital is run by the Seventh Day Adventists, and believes as much in spiritual healing as in physical healing.

Well, as expected, the infrastructure was superb, and the facilities, top-of-the-line. The doctors went mostly by the various test reports, prescribing accordingly, and hardly spent more than five-ten minutes in a room, but patiently answered all queries, if asked. As for the second-line in healthcare, the nurses, most of them were pretty efficient, some quite lively and forthcoming, some not so much. And, the staff members were of many different hues and colors, and nationalities, at least as far as origin was concerned.

Well, it was an interesting experience, and made me recall the three days I spent in a private hospital back home in Kathmandu, when I myself had to be admitted. In truth, my stay was actually quite good, my treatment was excellent, and the costs were reasonable. You may be wondering about the costs incurred in Florida Hospital, well let me tell you, insurance took care of it, so I didn’t even bother to know the details.

In ending, my American experience gave me a new realization about why everybody’s making such a big hue and cry about healthcare here. Taking all the high-end facilities and staff numbers into account, and the daily maintenance costs to keep hundreds of thousands of such hospitals running efficiently, must surely require immense resources and support from the government. Add to this the fact that healthcare costs, including doctor’ fees and drug prices, are much higher in America than in most other countries, and what you have is an issue that can make or break any government.