Problem with the problem solverRegarding the Feb. 20 Recapping the News item on the report by the Association of American Medical Colleges touting its members’ combined economic impact of $451 billion in 2005: I guess it is good that the problem thanks itself by turning its failures into a success story. Should we also thank HIV/AIDS patients for their contribution?
Is it a good thing to have an economic impact that makes America 37th in the world ranking of medical-care indicators? And to think that our $2 trillion in annual health spending buys us care that is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., 434,000 annual fatalities after heart disease with 900,000 and cancer with 600,000. And while there is all this chatter of longer survival for certain diseases, as with cancer, the fact is that survival rates are about the same when you take into account that patients appear to be surviving longer because the diseases are being detected earlier.
Many studies have revealed that interns and residents at teaching hospitals are overextended, work egregious hours and literally bury many of their mistakes. The AAMC has consistently fought any reform and was a friend of the court in 1976 in a case before the National Labor Relations Board over the rights of house staff to join unions as employees, a case that grew out of staff fighting to limit hours and improve patient care.
Based on state-required reports of nosocomial infections at Pennsylvania hospitals, we can project that nationwide we spend $70 billion to $100 billion treating these infections. After adding the cost, waste, corruption, buying and selling of hospitals, fraud, stock-option scandals and the rest of the fiascos, we would be best to consider what the benefit-cost ratio of hospitals really is when compared with improved housing and education, and quality of water, air and food.
Compared with such an analysis, imagine what the cost-benefit ratio would be for starting a nationwide wellness campaign.
Edward GluckmannChief operating officer Substantial Solutions Beacon, N.Y.
E-mail your opinion to us at [email protected].