Government health care: One noose for one neck
By Richard E. Ralston
Before I developed a detailed interest in government management of health care, I was unwillingly introduced to the subject after I was badly injured in a head-on collision in a taxi to LaGuardia Airport in New York City in 1993. To my everlasting regret, the ambulance took me to a hospital run by the city of New York.
The hospital was undoubtedly understaffed and overwhelmed. But that situation was made much worse by a nursing staff of indifferent, bloody-minded, time-serving union thugs. Over the next eight nights, I did encounter two or three hardworking nurses trying to help patients as much as they could, but they were a tiny minority.
I waited outside the emergency room for some hours until someone complained about the large pool of blood accumulating beneath my gurney. I required many hours of surgery to repair blood vessels, then tissue, then skin. Afterward I complained of pain in my hip, and the surgeon asked the nurse to bring a painkiller for my IV. After 30 minutes he asked the nurse about it, and she said she could not "push it in" (to the IV bag). The surgeon responded, "Then tell me that, don't just walk away." The head of the ER later explained that the current union agreement did not permit nurses to push other medications into IV bags.
I was allowed to rest on a bed outside the ER until I could leave for the airport. I was not able to walk in the morning, and new x-rays showed a broken hip, so I was admitted. At about 7 AM, I requested access to a phone from a nurse, as no one in my family knew where I was. She walked away. Many more requests of any nurse walking by produced the same result. Finally, after 5 PM, the head nurse came by and told me I could get a phone by my bed for $25, but the office for that would not open until the following morning. I somehow made it on one leg to a straight-back chair and used my good leg to push into the hallway. Another patient saw my predicament and found a wheelchair I could use. I found a payphone outside the ward and made a call. A nurse tried to stop me, saying, "You can't do that." I informed her that if I were in jail I would be allowed to make a phone call, and I told her to mind her own business.
As I rolled back to my bed, the secretary in the ward office asked me if I would like a lawyer. That sounded like a good idea at the time. Five minutes later a phone was installed next to my bed, and there was an attorney on the line. I am glad he had a scout in the hospital.
The next morning a patient was trying to make it to the men's room and had an accident. The result stayed in the middle of the already-filthy floor all day. The nurses refused to clean it up. So did the janitors, because their union contract said they could not handle anything from a human body. (They were not busy elsewhere; the men's room floor, my entire stay, was completely covered with a layer of trash.)
These were only a few highlights of my stay.
Today I am suspicious when a union for nurses tirelessly advocates complete government control of all medical care. Why do nurses' unions fight so hard to destroy private insurance? Because they want to place one union noose around the neck of all health care in the country. That requires the destruction of the rights of insurance company investors, employees and policyholders. And for that they would have to establish a spoils system with politicians they can control. In California, they already have just that, with the help of union leaders for teachers, prison guards and others. Any medical system they impose will primarily serve that spoils system, not doctors or their patients.
I am sure many others have had more horrific experiences, and I am much better now. But what lingers most from my misery at that time was my realization and fear that Hillary Clinton was trying to create an entire medical system that would perform like hospitals run by the City of New York. I now fear that President Obama is trying to do the same thing. We must not let that happen.
Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, Newport Beach, California. Copyright © 2009 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
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