Civilisation, we got a problem.
This holiday time off has given me a lot of time to read and reflect. And catch up on Christmas tv. My mum is staying with me and I watched “Call the Midwife” for the first time.
I understand it is a fictionalisation of a memoir but all the same the stories about how the newly started National Health Service took care of people are wonderful. If they are half true, they are still magnificent. Another thing I am watching, is a comedy called “Getting On” which is about two nurses and doctor in a hospital geriatrics ward. These are comedy situations but not in the absurdist or surreal vein like in Green Wing but rather a black comedy about things that actually happen to people. Some of the humour is derived from cringing at how essentially crap care can be when management-speak and targets take over.
People working in hospitals probably wanted to make a difference in the mould of “Call the Midwife”, when they started. Call The Midwife is pretty much Compassion Porn. People who go into caring professions are totally into that. And yet, they are forced into situations and scenarios where they cannot do their best by their patients and it makes them callous and hard. It makes them bad at what they do. It, sorry guys, makes them bad people.
Now, you know me, I am not usually a “boo capitalism!” kinda gal. But I am going to go ahead and blame capitalism for this. J’ACCUSE capitalism. Though it’s complicated. When they came up with the National Health Service initially, they thought “Well, if we give people really good preventative care, they won’t get sick so much and we will save money in the long run! HURRAH!” and then people lived longer and then got much much more expensive illnesses. That’s gratitude for you(!)
A fully comprehensive and functioning health service takes a lot of money. And I believe it is the duty of any functioning developed nation to pony up and spend that money, already. I hate the idea of someone deciding they cannot get a lump checked out because that costs money and then they get badly ill and no one can help them. Or they walk around with TB. Or they have depression. Or an emergency completely bankrupts them.
No, developed nations, no! These people deserve so so much better.
Where it is capitalism’s fault is that capitalism has said “When I do my stuff for shoe factories and tea shops, I make things cheaper through the magic of economics!” and so people think, let’s apply capitalism to the health service and make it affordable to the state. Let’s outsource shit, let’s drive down wages, let’s track spending properly, let’s have the same sort of systems you might find in an investment bank.
And what happens is that capitalism says “hahah, only joking, what I do is try to make as much money as possible for my shareholders and now I am going to do just that with your tax that you kindly gave to me. I am now going to do everything in my power to rip you off.” and then cleaners get paid less to clean more (result: horrific death for vulnerable people), medicine and tests get rationed on cost grounds, medical care professionals are given less time but given an ENORMOUS amount of shit if they don’t do admin tasks. Which means, they prioritise this paperwork over for their patient care role.
All this weighs heavy on a psyche and even people who were pretty ok can get scarred by it and become callous. Cruelty emerges. And power plays. Corners are cut. Inappropriate savings are made.
These savings are not always logical. To give a personal example, I had cell changes as a result of a virus. There are many strains of this virus. A handful of these strains cause cancer, the rest cause skin conditions. I was not tested to see which strain it was, which meant I was operated on as if it were the dreaded cancer-virus. It wasn’t (I found out later when they DID test me, the second time around). They wasted a lot more money because they wanted to save a bit of money.
Danish healthcare is undergoing the same crisis as in the UK. If you call an ambulance in the capital, they will try to fob you off. If you are terminally ill, they ration the morphine and try to make you die of dehydration. If you need a diagnosis, they run a couple of tests rather than a full workup. Everyone is stressed out and so dickishness can occur.
Capitalism whispers “Hey, I can fix this! If everyone pays me to do good medicine on them, I totally will. I will do all the tests, I will give out all the morphine, I will have the nicest staff! Just stop this state-run madness and I will fix all your problems, I PROMISE”
To which the answer is:- Yeah, right(!) and WHAT ABOUT THE VULNERABLE?
Capitalism can suck my non-existent dick if it thinks it can exchange the amount I pay in tax for health care to a contribution to a company. A company will try to maximise its profits which could mean denying me certain treatments or refusing to help me at all because I get sick so much. The state would have to tell the companies that these dick-moves were off limits and this means anticipating it could happen and having the cojones to try to stop it. And that’s just my own mean self-interest talking here.
Meanwhile, people who cannot afford to pay a contribution are totally boned. Without going into who deserves a new hip, to be able to see, and to be cured of malaria. I am NOT going to live in a country where people can find themselves in the position where sickness means certain death, permanent disability or financial ruin just because they had fallen on hard times somehow.
And even in the cases of “ha! you stupid grasshopper, playing violin the whole time, now your kid has measles and is quite badly ill, you should have paid for an immunisation, like I did”, there are knock on effects of having infectious people running around in the same community as both the “deserving” poor and the righteous health insurance holders.
The point isn’t that capitalism doesn’t work because it does. It works. Look at it work! If you want a system that streamlines the process of making a gidget and getting it into the hands of people who desire gidgets, or allowing people who would like a certain service to obtain it from people who offer it… Capitalism is a pretty neat idea.
In the case of health care, it is completely inappropriate. The ideas and processes are non-applicable.
What frustrates me is that we think we cannot think of a better way of driving down costs. Apparently, we can either have an inefficient monster where suffering through a lack of care or resources is practically unheard of but we cannot afford to run it, OR we can have a just-as-expensive-to-the-public machine where suffering is commonplace and caused by people not being paid enough to care.
OF COURSE we can think of a better way of doing this! The idea that introducing a bit of capitalism will save money is ridiculous. Why would a capitalist want to save YOU money? The entire point of capitalism is “make as much money as poss without stealing”. And of course, it’s silly to squander money and resources as if they were unlimited.
The idea that you couldn’t sit some experts and professionals and thinkers down in a room with a coffee machine and flipchart, and expect them to come up with something that saves money without being essentially crap, is laughable.
I am not saying their idea wouldn’t need work when they emerged jittery and teacher-tattoo*’d from the room but I am saying that IT COULD NOT BE ANY WORSE.
Greedy people have tricked other greedy people and everyone is suffering. And what is worse, these greedy people pretend it wasn’t their political philosophy that screwed the pooch, they claim it is the opposite political spectrum that screwed the pooch. Socialism, communism, liberals, reds. Whatever. I think they are only half right. It is totally a joint bipartisan effort that gets systems this far out of whack. But, yeah, capitalism is the problem in Denmark and the UK at the moment. Capitalism is the reason that casual inhumanity is occurring on an industrial scale in developed nations (whether they have universal healthcare or not).
We are better than this, come on! Think of us as the monkeys at the start of 2001, scrabbling around in the dust. One look at a rectangle and we evolve right the fuck out and get up to interplanetary shenanigans with insane computers WE INVENTED only a hundred thousand years later.
Imagine what we could do if we actually wanted everyone to have decent, affordable medical care?
If you thought washing machines are good, just wait and see how good you can have it! Human ingenuity is pretty much the bomb and if we want, we can solve this. What is tripping us up is this idea that pure ideologies (such as “Let’s just throw money at this problem until it goes away!” or “Get rich or die trying!”), could give us any new answers to this particular problem.
And this is just me. This is just how I feel about it with my feelings. It is an opinion that I am having. And I expect others have perspectives that I will find delightful and compelling, if only they express them with grace and patience.
*The technical term for when someone gets dry whiteboard marker ink on their little finger.