Annals of Government Medicine

A point that we and other conservatives have made repeatedly about the VA scandal is that no one should have been surprised. The problem with the VA isn’t the person appointed to head the organization, and it can’t be solved by a few tweaks to the statute. The fundamental problem with the VA is that it is government medicine. When health care is uncoupled from the competitive market, what happens? Just what you should expect: even though many individuals are dedicated and hard-working, government-run monopoly institutions inevitably become sclerotic, unresponsive and low-quality. Think of the post office, only with no competition from FedEx and UPS.

We have done a series of posts under the title “Annals of Government Medicine” highlighting the catastrophic decline in quality of care that comes with single-payer medicine. Most come from the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service is in crisis. Today’s installment is from the Daily Mail:

Three days after Margaret Lamberty was photographed doubled over in agony on a hospital floor, the mother-of-four died of suspected multiple organ failure. …

Mrs Lamberty had a history of blood clots, but her family claim medics failed to carry out the proper tests when she was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain.

Instead, they say she was left in a side ward for three days before passing away, when suspected clots in her bowel triggered her organs to shut down. …

The family, who are preparing to take legal action against the hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, say Mrs Lamberty was apparently left to lie in blood-stained bed sheets for 24 hours, and was forced to wait half an hour for a nurse after buzzing for help.

Her daughter Laura, a full-time mother-of-five, from Stoke-on-Trent, said she took shocking pictures of her mother writhing in agony to show the doctors how much pain she was in. … “A known problem is blood clots so I can’t understand why it wasn’t spotted. She had scars on her legs from the other operations she had to remove blood clots. How could the doctors have missed them?

“She was in so much pain. I pressed the buzzer to call for a nurse and we waited 30 minutes. I took pictures of her on the floor of the hospital because I wanted to show them to the doctors to prove how much agony she was in.”

In these stories, hospital personnel come across as callous. But they don’t start out that way. It is the system–government medicine–that beats down expectations over time, insulates managers from accountability, and ultimately treats patients as a necessary evil. Don’t let it happen here!

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