What Price Healthcare?

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Last weekend I had the joy of hosting some visitors from North America to our tiny island.   I say North America because one visitor was from USA and the other from the nearby socialist state of Canada.  On the Saturday night my American friend, let’s call him Barack, just for fun, decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator down to reception.  Now I have a very firm belief that exercise is not good for people, and true to form on the way down the steps Barack turned his ankle.

At first he couldn’t walk but after a short while he felt better and decided that he would be ok to walk to the restaurant in town.  Not far, about half a mile.  He clearly was in pain, but maybe he would walk the injury off.  The rest of the evening went ok, as most of it was sat down, and he was able to walk back to the hotel.

The next time I saw Barack was at breakfast.   He looked dreadful.  He was pale; he had no appetite and reported that he had cried out in the night from the pain in his ankle.   Knowing that this was the beginning of his trip to the UK, and that he was planning to visit a trade show in London, I suggested that we should go to the accident and emergency unit at the local hospital.  At this point he turned from grey to ashen, clearly thinking about the dollars spent at previous visits to hospital.

He protested that the pain was really ok, would he be able to cope.  The problem though wasn’t Barack, it was me. Having carried him from breakfast to the car I decided that that was enough and I would not be able to carry him for the rest of the week.

After a short drive we found the local hospital, thanks in part to Google maps.  He hobbled in and I went in as interpreter.  We may use the same words, but our version of English and an Americans version of English are totally different.  Two countries divided by a common language.   

Within a few minutes he had been “checked” in, assessed and was waiting for someone to inspect him in more detail.  Barack was shocked, by this point he would have spent $1,000 back home.    About 10 minutes later a senior nurse inspected his foot, I had to look away, and it was too much for me (btw email me for the correct version of this sentence).  She sent him for x-ray and with 45 minutes he was leaving, reassured that nothing was broken and with a copy of the image on a CD in case he needed it back in the USA.        

He was concerned that they would send him a bill, as this would have cost $2-3000 back home.  I reassured him.  Firstly the health system in the UK is free at the point of delivery, and secondly they didn’t write his address down correctly.    I asked him what he thought of the experience, and you will have to email for the correct version of his response.  You can imagine though he was very impressed.

The ankle repaired itself as the week went on and although he passed on running the London Marathon, he was able to achieve everything else he set out to do, confident that he was not damaging his foot even more .   

So what price healthcare?  Some say our health and our family are the only things that really matter.


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