my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

1.03.2008

Harborview

I hope I can convey this, still having the remnants of a couple of valium in me ... I have a story about health care in the U.S.

My back pain having persisted for months to the point where a disinterested primary care physician finally referred me to a specialist who was interested, I found myself routed to Seattle's roughest medical turf for an MRI, a kind of x-ray in the round that allows a physician to see the soft disk tissue between the bony vertebrae.

Harborview is the once county, or public, hospital known as well for its superlative trauma care as it is for its mostly indigent population of the sick who cannot obtain care elsewhere.

It is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Washington and the Veterans Administration hospitals ... each hosts a number of research projects that rely heavily on those willing to subject themselves both to student physicians and experimental procedures. Thus the poor become useful in the advancement of science.

The specialist who will care for my spine is known for a particular technique and I am grateful he is willing to treat me. But, apparently because of his affiliation with Harborview, it was that facility in which I found myself waiting for an MRI today.

My procedure was no different -- and perhaps more comfortable -- than the one I experienced some fifteen years ago in a more luxe atmosphere.

But waiting for it was a trip.

Despite an obviously hardworking staff, and lavender paint trimming the walls, and ethnic-leaning art that tries too hard and the mandatory Chihuly glasswork behind glass, there is a aura of deep grime about the place. And dejection.


These are waiting rooms peopled with those who cannot speak English -- almost every cluster of patients in the radiology room was accompanied by a translator, whether Hispanic or Somali.

These are people who must rely on the kindness of strangers when asked "Do you have insurance? Do you have any coverage at all?" When the most positive answer is the translator helping the sick one pull Medicaid coupons out of a purse or a pocket.

And these are sick people. Radiology is not the most grim department in the facility -- I'm pretty sure the hyper-busy ER is -- but even there, you could tell that a lot of these people had waited until they could wait no longer to seek care.

Spend some time in a place like this and then talk to me about market forces in health care.

8 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

WHy not? You won't know what I'm saying until the valium wears off anyhow.

5:03 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

oh, Doug. x.

5:12 PM

 
Blogger WinterWheat said...

That's heartbreaking, and enraging. :-( >:-(

Did you get the results of the MRI yet?

5:55 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

K, not yet. I found out I have to go back in tomorrow -- they mistakenly masked a part of the spine with a block (!) and need to do part of it again. xoxo

6:13 PM

 
Blogger TLP said...

Oh Mireille! So sorry for the pain and for the re-do.

I do have to brag that I've been in favor of "socialized medicine" all of my life. I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone is in favor of limiting medical care.

8:12 AM

 
Blogger ariel said...

Our own medical system used to scare the shit out of me. As my friend likes to say, our hospitals are for the young and strong because the old and sick will not survive them. But now they say we are changing to the market forced health care, and I am realizing, we have a lot to lose..

Sorry to hear you have to go back and redo. The best wishes to you and your spine! Hope you both are going to be fine soon.

8:29 AM

 
Blogger audible said...

Why are we okay with public schools, but not with public health care? People would be outraged if only the most impoverished children recieved monthly school tuition wavers from the government. I am happy that I qualify for pregnancy medical coverage from the government. Without it I'd have to get a part time job just to cover medical expenses.

Good luck with the spine issues. Hopefully they get it right this time.

2:20 PM

 
Blogger Lettuce Hater said...

the US healthcare system frightens me

i know the UK one ain't perfect but a millionaire and a pauper (more or less) have access to the same quality healthcare

((hugs)) hope you get your second MRI done soon

xxx

4:57 AM

 

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