Health care industry cover ups
If you are interested in reading about the history of private healthcare, start with Michael Wynne’s astonishing site Corporate Health Care. Michael came from a Medical Family and graduated in Medicine from Capetown University in 1956. After completing his residency in Cape Town he worked in London for 8 years, in the National Health Service. He later returned to Cape Town and worked for 5 years in private practice with public appointments. Later he accepted a full time post with a local hospital servicing the black community. He eventually emigrated to Queensland with his family in 1977.
His exposure to ideology v medicine is both in South Africa, the UK, the USA and Asia is extensive. After his eldest son died in a corporate hospital run by National Medical Enterprises in Singapore, Michael become involved in direct lobbying against corporate medicine. Brian Martin, the past president of the Australian Whistleblowers Association asked Michael to document his story lobbying against the corporatisation of Medicine. This astonishingly detailed assessment of corporate healthcare in Australia is the result. Companies discussed include Mayne Nickless, Alpha Healthcare, Healthscope and Ramsey Health. The site also looks at the corporatisation of hospitals, GP clines and pathology services.
Tax payers subsidies to private healthcare are currently 5 billion a year and growing. Complex and hidden financial arrangements may exist between the private companies that supply medical goods, tests and treatments, and the doctors who prescribe them. Some private patients claim they are not receiving proper nursing and allied health services. An article in the Australian site Inside Story looks at whether this money is being well spent.
‘John Kenneth Galbraith once said that if you want to feed oats to a sparrow, don’t do it by feeding a horse and expecting the sparrow to get some of what passes out the other end…’
Tax payers subsidies of other industries like manufacturing have ended badly for all concerned. Lost jobs, lost billions in tax subsidies and ignored claims that the industry needed hard reform, not continuous handouts. A report written by John Menadue and Ian McAuley in 2012 concluded that private health insurance is is ‘an expensive and clumsy way to do what the tax system and Medicare do so much better – that is to distribute funds to those who need health care.’
The American fully privatised health system is condemned by every respectable health commentator, from the USA and overseas. The Americans currently pay double what most other countries pay for healthcare, yet receive lower rates of overall life expectancy, higher rates of preventable disease and higher rates of over servicing in return. Information on out of pocket costs and quality of doctors and hospitals is impossible for patients to obtain. Outrageous overcharging of basic services by American hospitals is well documented. The latest book by Exekiel J Emanuel sets out the problems succinctly and clearly. Warren Buffet an American billionaire and financial commentator, called the USA health system a ‘tapeworm’ and suggested it needs to be ‘flushed’. And if that doesn’t concern you, have a look at the trailer for Escape Fire.
Public healthcare is often sold as being ‘safe’. But that’s not always the case either.
Some relatives of patients in the National Health Service in the UK aren’t impressed, particularly those with relatives in aged care. The Stafford Hospital Scandal in 2008 – 2010 uncovered appalling patient care in a public hospital, including unnecessarily high death rates, management cover ups and patients being left lying in their own urine and being forced to drink water from flower vases. There were subsequently five enquiries into this hospital. It transpired that the problem had been allowed to go on for so long because of widespread cover ups and a ‘bureaucracy mindset‘. All the Australians I have spoke to who have tried to complain about nursing homes or public hospitals to the health bureaucracy in this country, complain bitterly about being brushed off, blocked, bullied and lied to. This includes relatives who family members have died under suspicious circumstances or patients who have tried to have bad hospitals reformed.
Healthcare staff who try to blow the whistle can have their lives ruined by a hostile bureaucracy, drawn out legal proceedings and lack of support from other staff who know about the problems but refused to speak out.
So what’s the answer?
More accountability, less secrecy and a greater involvement of patients, health professionals and IT staff into the actual running of hospitals. Which is exactly what Wikihospitals stands for.