People baffled by America’s health care system have every reason to be. As Ricardo Nuila demonstrates in his eye-opening narrative, the system has so many built-in problems that it is its own worst enemy.
American health care has degenerated into a business whose primary purpose is not to treat the sick, but to make a profit. Corporations have swallowed up private practices, drawn hospitals into mergers, and turned doctors into business people. None of them get paid unless the money comes out of someone’s pocket. This creates an incentive for private practitioners to approve tests and medical procedures that may be unnecessary and even harmful to the patient. These actions drive up the cost of health care and make it unaffordable for all but the privileged few.
The People’s Hospital is much more than a critique. It is a compassionate look at how frustration and discouragement arising from a defective system affect both caregivers and patients. Nuila describes his experiences as the son of a doctor, and how he learned that a good doctor “gave their patients what was needed at key moments, whether it was a hand on the shoulder, a statistic, or, as I learned from my dad, even a well-timed joke.” Such intangibles, he argues, create a relationship of trust that is essential to successful medical care.
Using documented cases, Nuila shows how a patient’s survival often depends on one’s race, social status, income, and health insurance. Under such a system, one patient unable to pay for health care might get it, while another can be denied for earning too much money. Nuila touts the success of hospitals like Ben Taub in Houston, where the indigent or uninsured can get taxpayer-funded Gold Cards. He suggests that the United States would be wise to follow the lead of Great Britain and Canada who offer government health care plans that put patients ahead of profits.
I heartily recommend The Patient’s Hospital for its scholarship, clarity, and humanity. Be aware that the author occasionally quotes a few people who use foul language.