Friday, August 31, 2007

Crazy government healthcare in the USA

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has a question for a local Jersey City health clinic: Why no doctors? Reacting to a story in Friday's editions of The Jersey Journal, the Hoboken Democrat dashed off a letter the next day to Catherine Cuomo-Cecere, the chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Family Health Network in Jersey City, a federally funded health clinic.

"I read with great concern and disappointment reports in yesterday's Jersey Journal that the Metropolitan Family Health Network has turned away patients this week because there were no doctors available to see them," Menendez wrote. "This is simply unacceptable," Menendez added.

As of last night Menendez had not received a response, according to a member of his staff. Cuomo-Cecere couldn't be reached for comment.

"I was even more surprised (there were no doctors), given that the last update my office received from you in March was that you had been in negotiations and were working on new contracts with the doctors who had left, and you were optimistic that two or more would be back within days or weeks," Menendez added.

According to City Councilwoman Viola Richardson, the medical staff at the clinic, located at 935 Garfield Ave., plummeted from six doctors to two when doctors were told they couldn't maintain their private practices and work at the clinic. A secretary at the clinic confirmed last week that Dr. Patrick Beaty, the clinic's medical director, had been on vacation.


Australia: Making an ambulance service "free" has caused huge over-use

How surprising! Result: Really urgent cases are slow in being attended to

FRUSTRATED ambulance officers say lives are still being put at risk despite taxpayers pumping more than $400 million into state coffers through a levy on electricity bills. The crisis, which has been exacerbated by a massive increase in the number of call-outs, is so severe that ambulances with less urgent patients on board are diverting to more serious cases.

One northside paramedic, who defied a media ban to speak out, revealed it took almost 20 minutes to answer a recent top priority call-out. And he claimed one major Brisbane station was left unattended on a Sunday night because of staff shortages. "I don't want people to get hurt or die," he said. He said it was not unusual for several stations to be unattended on any given night.

Taxpayers hand over $97.99 a year for a special levy, collected through electricity bills, which replaced an old subscription service that raised about $80 million in its final year. The levy raised $99 million in its first full financial year, in 2003-04, but the total ambulance budget that year rose by only $27.8 million.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said QAS funding had grown significantly in recent years. "The ambulance levy replaced a very unreliable subscription scheme," he said. Both ambulance officers and the State Government say the situation has been exacerbated by a huge jump in demand. Overall, call-outs have increased about 10 per cent every year since the introduction of the ambulance levy in 2003, with a record set this year.

Queensland Ambulance Union's Steve Crow confirmed response times were getting longer as crews struggled to attend as many as 700 code-one call-outs a day. "It used to be 68 per cent of cases took under 10 minutes, but now it's more like 62 per cent and that figure's even worse in the regions," he said. Prebs Sathiaseelan, president of the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, which represents paramedics, said the ambulance levy was behind a jump in trivial calls. "We go to things like stubbed toes," he said. "People have got an appointment at the doctor's - they want the ambulance because it is covered under this levy. It's being abused." But Mr Sathiaseelan said the levy was not behind code-one increases. He blamed that increase on an ageing population and "phenomenal growth" in Queensland.

Mr Roberts also blamed Queensland's "growing and ageing population" for the increased demand for services. "In the 2006-07 financial year, the Queensland Ambulance Service attended 10,757 (or 9.7 per cent) more code one incidents than for the 2005-06 financial year," he said. But he said the extra demand was being addressed with the recruitment of 250 new ambulance staff this year and the purchase of 16 new vehicles. He was not concerned that some stations were unattended at night, describing the QAS as a "mobile service delivered by paramedics in vehicles".


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