Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rationing Shell Game in the UK

Because of the rationing inherent in the British socialized medical system, there are long waits for care in their ER's (which they call "A&E" for "Accident & Emergency"). Patients were naturally frustrated and upset, so the government has set a target that A&E departments must treat patients within 4 hours.

Of course, a government decree can't actually conjure up medical care from thin air. Hence, many A&E departments are merely keeping incoming patients in the ambulances for several hours and refusing to let them into the doors of the hospital -- that way they don't count as having "arrived" at the hospital until much later:
Scandal of patients left for hours outside A&E
The Observer, Sunday February 17 2008

Hospitals were last night accused of keeping thousands of seriously ill patients in ambulance 'holding patterns' outside accident and emergency units to meet a government pledge that all patients are treated within four hours of admission.

Those affected by 'patient stacking' include people with broken limbs or those suffering fits or breathing problems. An Observer investigation has also found that some wait for up to five hours in ambulances because A&E units have refused to admit them until they can guarantee to treat them within the time limit. Apart from the danger posed to patients, the detaining of ambulances means vehicles and trained crew are not available to answer new 999 calls because they are being kept on hospital sites.
(Here's a related story.)

Of course, the fundamental problem is the government system of health care, with the inevitable rationing. Once people are deprived of free market medicine, this sort of shell game is all they are left with.