2004-11-19 / Columnists

The Progressive

Random Thoughts
By John Paul Culotta

After the recent series of hurricanes in Florida, it would be prudent for major insurance companies and officials in DC (both the White House and Congress) to lobby for stringent housing codes in states that are at risk for disasters that Mother Nature sometimes chooses to send our way. Although stringent building codes cannot completely prevent all damage that natural phenomenon sends our way, it certainly would prevent the high costs to the taxpayers and to the insured population. Insurance companies generally are parsimonious in paying and have high levels of deductibles that must be met before paying for damages. Deductibles have to be met for each storm causing may Floridians severe financial hardship. It may be necessary to limit population in many coastal areas.

Infections that are obtained while hospitalized are becoming a major cause of death in this nation. British news media are reporting that the government in the United Kingdom is setting standards for hospitals to confront this problem. Denmark and the Netherlands have already had campaigns to address the problem. Simple measures, for example that hospital personnel cannot wear jewelry while working, have reduced the rate of infection. It is imperative that all levels of government in this nation address this problem.   

My sister-in-law had a hip replacement operation a few months ago. She needed to be in a nursing home for a week. Every day she was given the same chicken dinner with vegetables. It seems that in order to reduce costs hospitals and nursing homes now outsource their food services to major corporations, for example Marriott, and since many medical care facilities are now part of a group, they get considerable cost reduction. Although it does not appear that the cost is passed on to the consumer, the question is are the services provided the patient (the consumer) adequate? 

Over the past few months I read in the newspapers about trends in the medical professions. Many physicians are leaving vital fields of medicine to enter the field of elective plastic surgery. The physicians do not have to deal with insurance companies and because the patients have to pay out of pocket, their profit margins are higher. On Staten Island, a few physicians have been indicted with the charge of giving incurable cancer patients who live in Italy incorrect information about their conditions. The patients were given to believe they could be cured in Staten Island University Hospital according to the indictment. These unfortunate people gave up life savings to come to the facility and of course the hoped for cure did not exist. The facility and physicians did not have to deal with HMOS or insurance companies. Their services were paid in cash. This type of behavior needs to be dealt with severely. The marketplace in medical care needs to be regulated

Many politicians are staking their political careers on leaving no children behind. This admirable goal is being addressed by denying promotion to students who do not meet standardized tests.

Will this be enough to resolve the challenge of having all succeed in school? Our goal can only be reached when we address the problems of poverty, hunger, poor nutrition, homelessness, substandard housing, and dysfunctional families. Denying promotion to students who cannot learn because they are hungry, are learning disabled, are poorly fed, have asthma because of mold in their home, or are sexually abused, is to punish the victim. Our schools are not equipped to solve all these problems. Nor should our schools be given the task. Society needs to address the problems of inadequate wages earned by many American workers. Poverty causes many social ills. Poverty causes many health problems that can cause poor acad-emic achievement. Without adequate income or health coverage essential doctor visits are delayed. Many poor people are not capable of surmounting the bureaucracy that exists to obtain adequate medical care. Some who work for meager wages are denied any assistance. Poverty causes people to live in substandard housing. This type of housing also causes health problems. This nation cannot expect to grow without an educated population. David K. Shipler, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has written The Working Poor Invisible in America. He addresses the folly of confronting many of our challenges without confronting poverty.



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