Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog: Single-Payer Health Care: "Incompetence, Debt, Misery and Filth" - London Times
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Friday, March 30, 2007

Single-Payer Health Care: "Incompetence, Debt, Misery and Filth" - London Times

Britain's government-run single-payer health care system mixes men and women in hospital wards. Privacy and decency, let alone safety in some cases, apparently are incompatible with single-payer, government-run medicine.

If you read nothing else about single-payer government medicine all year, read the excerpts I post below from an article in the Times of London.

As you do, ask yourself if you would like your elderly parent, or sick or injured child, or anyone perhaps including your very worst enemy to be "cared for" in a hospital ward like the one described in this column by Minette Marrin, writing in the London Times:
...Week after week reliable reports and the government���s own figures tell a disgraceful story of incompetence, debt, misery and filth in the National Health Service. That story is supported, week after week, by heart-rending personal accounts of horrors on the wards.

The broken new Labour promise that caught most public attention last week was the failure to abolish mixed-sex wards. Janet Street-Porter, the ferocious media personality, wrote about the misery of her sister when dying of cancer in a mixed-sex NHS ward. Plenty of other people have tried to draw attention to this disgrace and Baroness Knight, the Conservative peer, has been campaigning about it for years but - such is the spirit of the times - it takes a loud-mouth celebrity to get public attention.

The same thing happened when Lord Winston made a fuss about the dreadful treatment that his elderly mother received in hospital. Only then did the government stop denying that there was anything wrong.

Street-Porter published extracts last week of the diary of Patricia Balsom, her dying sister. They were horrifying. Among the miseries she endured was lying neglected in a mixed ward, where she was woken more than once to see a naked male patient masturbating opposite her bed. Her shocking stories prompted a flood of others.

The late Eileen Fahey, for instance, dying of cancer, was put onto a mixed geriatric ward where confused people wandered about without supervision. One man with dementia regularly masturbated at the nurses��� station and tried to get into women patients��� beds; he was a threat to them all but staff took no notice, according to her daughter Maureen. Other patients have to give answers to intimate questions in the hearing of other patients. One deaf old man was repeatedly asked when he last had an erection, until tears ran down his cheeks.

A former midwife described eloquently on Radio 4 the indignities of being in a 24-bed mixed-sex ward, stripped of all dignity and intimidated. Bedlam was the word she used, and it applies even more accurately to the secure psychiatric mixed ward in London endured by Susan Craig last year, after a breakdown. She suffered regular sexual harassment, with mentally ill men groping her and exposing themselves. The nurses disbelieved her and told her husband she was "flaunting herself."

If so (I don���t believe them), their job was to protect a patient from her own folly. Instead they chose, in modern cant, to blame the victim.

Sexual harassment is only a small part of the problem. Many people, both men and women, feel their modesty is violated by such closeness to random members of the opposite sex, even when they are not threatened.

Patients lie naked, half washed and forgotten, their sick and ageing flesh exposed to everyone, while nurses rush elsewhere. It is commonplace to have to walk to filthy mixed lavatories with gowns wide open at the back. At a time of sickness and anxiety many people are profoundly embarrassed to be surrounded by a clutter of bed pans, colostomy bags, nakedness, cries of pain and sweat, blood and tears - their own and other people���s.

All this is much worse, for many, when they are surrounded by members of the opposite sex; shame and anxiety are not the best bedfellows of hope and healing.

Much has been written about the rape of modesty and the death of shame. However, it is still true in this weary country that most men and women prefer to perform private bodily functions alone if possible, and among their own sex only, if not. That���s why we have separate public lavatories and separate changing rooms in shops and clubs and pubs. That���s why people put up towels on the beach. That���s why women give birth in female wards, not in mixed wards or not - I hope - so far...

...My feeling is that mixed-sex wards are not the worst of NHS hospitals��� problems, although they demonstrate them. They demonstrate the incompetence and deviousness of hospital management in general, and they also show something worse. In all the stories I���ve come across what stands out is the ignorance, incompetence, laziness and heartlessness of all too many nurses, who are allowed to neglect and insult their patients without supervision and without sanction - in single-sex wards just as much as mixed...
Remember folks, this story isn't about Haiti, or North Korea, or some Third World country with no resources to speak of.

This is Britain. The Mother Country. The one a lot like us.

If the USA adopts single-payer, universal, government-run, "Medicare-for-All" (it hides behind many names) health care, this sort of thing will happen here.

Count on it.

Hat tip: Eye on Britain

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:56 PM 

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