But on top of my illness early last week, I actually found myself camped out in one of your fancy American hospitals at the end of the week and over the weekend. The extended visit was unrelated to my own illness, so I really had chance to take it all in... and I must say, as a Canadian, that you guys have it good.
This place (New York Presbyterian) was like a nice hotel: everyone was kind and helpful (there was an emergency room "attendant" who asked my how I was doing, because I guess I looked tired) and it wasn't all that busy. Growing up in my frozen socialist homeland the care was always good and I never had any complaints, but nobody ever asked me how I was feeling. I guess I just never knew how good it could be. Two questions, however, kept floating through my mind as I ferried coffee from the cafeteria to the waiting room: "Who's paying for all of this?" and "Who's getting rich from all of this?" (Followed by an inevitable third question, "Where the fuck am I/Why am I in the child radiology wing?")
And then I started thinking about all the horror stories I'd heard about public hospitals in America, about blood-slick floors and lengthy waits and patients dying in hallways... Do incredible hospitals like NY Presbyterian necessitate shitty ones like the notorious Wood"hell" in Brooklyn? Is there some zero sum equation at play with quality of care? Because I can't imagine an experience like the one I had at NYP could possibly be repeated across any kind of broad access system; so it seems like health care reform in this country comes down to a kind of choice about what sort of society we are: Do we care more about some of us having really great experiences? Or the rest of us having really terrible experiences?