July 15, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Are Hospitals Bloated?


How many health care professional does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: A lot.

Two years ago, at the height of controversy over whether South Carolina would expand Medicaid per the Affordable Care Act, we read a lot of arguments about federal dependency and borrowed money, about the folly of expanding a substandard government health care program, and about government involvement increasing health care costs. We read a lot of misinformation, too, about federal money going to other states if South Carolina didn’t accede to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, and much, much more.

What we don’t recall reading is anything on South Carolina hospitals. Those hospitals already receive huge amounts of federal and state money, and those amounts are increasing all the time thanks to, among other things, the state’s de facto expansion of Medicaid. With hospitals flush with expanding government appropriations, and with hospital costs exceeding all rational bounds, we often wonder if perhaps hospitals themselves deserve some scrutiny. Are they run more like bloated and inefficient government agencies than functional private entities?

So we were interested to receive this email earlier this week.

I live in Columbia. A few weeks ago my son (eight years old) hurt his finger at a birthday party. His finger was swollen, and we were told by a physician at the party that it may be broken and that we should take him to a doctor. It was on a Saturday night, so it had to be an emergency room. We took him in.

Long story short. He was seen by no fewer than twelve people – I counted. There were nurses, assistants, a couple of guys doing an X-ray, more nurses, a doctor, more people filling out paper work . . . It took a small platoon of health care professionals to treat one kid’s broken finger. I thought, My goodness, all he probably needs is a splint!

Well guess what. His finger wasn’t even broken. The bone was “fractured” or something like that, not broken. After all that, they gave him a splint and told me to give him some children’s Advil. Oh, and the splint was too big. They didn’t have one small enough for his hand and told us to try it. He wore it for about an hour and that was it.

Later, of course, I got the bill. Even with an insurance plan, I had to pay $290.

I can see why. It takes a lot of money to employ that many people to swarm around every kid with a hurt finger. Good grief. If you ask me, hospitals could cut down on costs – theirs and ours – by a healthy round of layoffs.

Thanks for letting me sound off.

Edna Bowles

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