Thursday, February 26, 2009

Doctoring the Numbers for Socialized Medicine

My recent Washington Examiner OpEd on "health care czars" was the subject of a spirited discussion thread at LittleGreenFootballs.

My wife Diana brought this comment to my attention:
Funny. In Sweden, right now, the government has all the hospitals agree to this "guarantee of service" which means when you seek non-emergency care, you must be guaranteed to see a doctor within 7 days. And if the doctor sees it is needed, he will refer you to a specialist, and you must be seen within 90 days. Then if treatment is needed, you must be treated within 90 days.

Nice, but, the hospitals can't meet that arrangement, so hospitals are quietly asking their doctors not to issue referrals -- that way they get out of the 7-90-90 agreement, and the heavy fines imposed on the hospitals if they do not fill them.
This sort of "doctoring" of the numbers is not limited to Sweden.

Last year, a controversy erupted in the UK when it turned out that ambulance drivers were told to keep critically ill patients within the ambulance, even after the vehicle had pulled up to the hospital property just outside of the doors of the emergency rooms (called "A&E" for "Accident & Emergency" in Great Britain).

The patients were forced to wait within the ambulance so that their waiting time in the vehicle wouldn't count against the hospital's waiting time, thus allowing the hospitals to technically claim that their patients were treated within government-mandated standards of arrival within the hospital:
Scandal of patients left for hours outside A&E

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.
If the US adopts government-run "universal health care", we will see American hospitals acting similarly and placing a higher priority on "doctoring their numbers" rather than their patients.