The disgraceful state of healthcare in our country!


I don’t know how many of you saw 60 Minutes last night, but the show was very compelling. Las Vegas is now turning away patients in need of chemo and they have no place to go for treatment. I commend the producers of 60 Minutes for this incredible and much needed show.

Recently thousands of letters went out across Las Vegas telling cancer patients that the only public hospital in the state was closing its outpatient clinic for chemotherapy.

While I am one that is very concerned that government run healthcare may turn out to be inadequate and the elderly particularly will be viewed as ‘disposable’, I do support it, and this situation is also unacceptable. We must all watch out for each other and not just when it is ‘us’ in need of the support. We have a responsibility to the very ill and the elderly to make sure they do not become ‘disposable’ and left to die. Otherwise, we lose our ‘human-ness’.

“I don’t want to die. I shouldn’t have to die. This is a county hospital. This is for people that, like me, many people have lost their insurance, have not any other resources. I mean I was a responsible person. I bought my house. I put money away. I raised my two children. And now I have nothing. You know my house isn’t worth anything. I have no money. And I said ‘What do I do, but what do all these other people do after me?’ ‘And they said we don’t know,'” Sharp told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.

Sharp, 63, has been fighting lymphoma since July. She’s not working because of her illness and has no insurance. Last year, she received charity care at the county hospital, University Medical Center. She was one of 2,000 patients who got the letter.

Death is a very real possibility to these victims. They have to fight it physically and they have to fight it economically.

Since December 31, there has been no chemotherapy for new outpatients.

Asked what reading this letter meant to her, Sharp told Pelley, “A death sentence.”

University Medical Center is the safety net for two million people; Las Vegas bets its life on it. UMC is a teaching hospital, the only fully equipped trauma center, the only burn unit, the only transplant unit, and the primary source of charity care in a city that has fallen on the hardest times it has ever seen.

The people who caused this economic mess are beyond disgusting.

Asked what services she had closed, Silver said, “We no longer provide prenatal services. We closed the outpatient oncology program. We cancelled a contract for outpatient dialysis. We closed the dedicated high risk obstetrical unit that we had. And we stopped doing outpatient mammography.”

60 Minutes was there in February when the women’s cancer clinic closed.

“When the hospital first informed you that the outpatient oncology clinic was closing, what did you think?” Pelley asked Dr. Nick Spiritos, who treats ovarian and uterine cancers.

“How can you do this to cancer patients? They’re dying. If we don’t provide them care, their outcome is guaranteed. They’re going to die,” he replied.

Curable cancer is being left untreated to become incurable.

Cancer is advancing on Livia Ralphs, who was recently laid off from her job selling cosmetics.

“It goes from here to here,” she explained, pointing out a bulge on the left side of her neck. “You probably see it sticking out.”

“So, in terms of the cancerous growth in your neck, the doctors believe it’s treatable. But you don’t have a way to treat it?” Pelley asked.

“I have no funds. I have no insurance. Nothing,” Ralphs replied.

The middle class is hit yet again.

There are two medical assistance programs for the very poor, like the folks who line up at a Las Vegas building before dawn to apply for state services: there’s Medicaid and Clark County medical assistance.

“So if you’re poor enough, you’re okay?” Pelley asked Silver.

“If you’re poor enough you’re fine because those patients are being taken care of,” she replied.

“If you’re rich enough you’re obviously fine. So who is falling through the cracks here?” Pelley asked.

“The patients who don’t qualify for a social services type of program,” Silver said.

“What we’re talking about here are people who are making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year and have lost their jobs and therefore lost their insurance?” Pelley asked.

“That’s correct,” Silver replied.

“The middle class,” Pelley remarked.

“That’s correct,” Silver said.

I never felt so helpless.

~ by citizenjournalistreview on April 6, 2009.

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