Sunday, March 22, 2009

Natasha Richardson: Victim of Socialized Medicine

From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK – As a steady stream of celebrities pay their last respects to Natasha Richardson, questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save the ailing actress.

The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal’s top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson’s death.

“It’s impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is . . . driving to Mont Tremblant from the city (Montreal) is a 2 ½-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn’t set up for traumas and doesn’t match what’s available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States,” said Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal’s hospitals.

While Richardson’s initial refusal of medical treatment cost her two hours, she also had to be driven to two hospitals. She didn’t arrive at a specialized hospital in Montreal until about four hours after the second 911 call from her hotel room at the Mont Tremblant resort, according to a timeline published by Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Not being airlifted directly to a trauma center could have cost Richardson crucial moments, Razek said.

“A helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B,” he said.
And further:
Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe does not specialize in head traumas, so her speedy transfer to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal was critical, said Razek.
But this sort of thing is not some anomaly in an otherwise efficient system.

From the Mises Economic Blog:
In writing about socialist medical care like they have in Canada, one of my points has been that socialist systems tend to be undercapitalized, as in such a system, capital becomes a liability rather than an asset. For example, the county where I work has about 80,000 residents and has as many MRI machines as does Montreal, which has several million people living in the area.

One doctor has pointed out that it took close to three hours to drive Richardson from Mount Tremblant to the trauma center in Montreal because Quebec has no medical helicopter system, unlike the USA, where such helicopters are common.

We should not be surprised. In Canada, no medical device has the capability of producing an income, so hospitals and medical care facilities often lack what is common in this country. For example, if a hospital or medical practice here purchases an MRI, that machine is able to provide an income to the provider as patients use it.

However, because no one can charge medical consumers for anything in Canada, the decision to purchase an MRI machine is purely one of cost. Medical facilities have only so much money to use, and the purchase of a device that performs MRIs means funds are drawn away from paying medical workers.

I remember a dentist friend telling me about visiting a dental clinic in Germany, which has had socialized medical care for years. He said it was like stepping back into the 1960s.

So, Ms. Richardson, RIP.

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Blogger Matt Wion said...

1. It seems problematic to use the death of someone to make a pitch for privatized health care. A bit capitlizing.

2. Arguments from analogy prove nothing. This is the same problem Michael Moore has in Sicko. He tells story after story about people being denied care because they don't have health insurance. But what follows from this? We need serious analysis and comparisons of multiple systems, not simply comparisons of a few stories.

We cannot simply say "oh look, one system has problem X." There are numerous universal health care systems. Canada is one country. And further, without comparing actual datat what good is it? Millions of millions of Americans are not treated because their insurance won't pay for it. And in many cases people who need instant care are denied it because their insurance companies insist that they must go to an "in network hospital" and can't be treated at the hospital the ambulance took them too.

Besides, Canada is far FAR from the best example of a national system. France, Italy, Spain, Australia, and even England are far superior to Canada's.

3. "Socialized medicine" is a meaningless term, without a great deal of clarification. Canada has private doctors and private hospitals. As does France. In fact the only country that has a completely socialized the hospitals and doctors is England. What Canada, France, and others have is "socialized insurance." That is, the goverment pays to cover people, they take over the role of the private insurance.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no medical-care system in Canada. Rather, each province has its own medical-care system. So, criticize the province of Quebec if you want, but not Canada. As the article you quote states, other parts (i.e. provinces) of Canada do have helicopters, etc.

Quebec is the French-speaking part of Canada. It receives substantial financial support from English Canada, rather than being economically self-sufficient.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MW: Your point about arguments from analogy is a good one. This sort of subtly is often lost on the author of this blog. Also important is that arguments from anecdote don't prove anything. If they did, then any anecdote involving a failing of the US system would be an indictment of the whole US system.

8:38 PM  

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