Special Reports

Condition critical for crisis in health care

Agiant service corporation called early one morning. "May I speak to Mr. Glass?" she asked sweetly. "He's not in," I replied.

Caller: "Is there someone there who can make a decision?"

After I stopped laughing, I realized that in many ways it was a very valid question - bringing to mind extremely serious concerns about our health care delivery systems nationally, and locally.

At a recent chamber of commerce session on attainable housing, we each were asked to frame a suggested newspaper headline regarding our current shortages.

One in particular had shock value: "Don't get sick in Manatee County. Hospital work force lacks housing options!"

Unfortunately, that's only one facet of a greater problem and something we can take steps to improve. Our health care system's maladies are critical, with no real resolutions on the decision table. Wherever one turns today, an issue related to health care has exploded into a new series of questions and challenges.

Ask doctors, and a serious lament is malpractice insurance. Talk to doctors who are ready to weep over the emergency room epidemic. Talk to the nurses and other professionals on the front line, many of whom can't even afford to own homes here. Ask the consumer about health insurance coverage - or lack thereof. Talk to Manatee, Blake and Manatee Glens hospitals about how they fear losing doctors in every specialty. Talk to patients who don't meet "eligibility criteria." Talk to those who serve on the Indigent Care Task Force, where funds are running short, or to caring county officials who, along with the health department, Manatee Rural Health Services, and We Care, are desperately seeking the best way to help.

There is not enough ink or paper to recount all the great accomplishments in health care Manatee County has achieved in both the public and private sectors through the years. But health care providers across the nation are facing the same concerns. U.S. News and World Report (Jan. 29) states in regard to a 30 percent increase in ER volume that specialists "have been driven away by too much work, too little pay and the fear of malpractice suits." Throw into the mix Medicaid, prescription drugs, medical advances and dizzying costs, we begin to realize that Band-Aids won't work anymore.

This in no way is an analysis of cause and effect. We are whirling in a morass of issues that will most certainly overwhelm the excellent care most of us find when we go seeking. Health care providers may not agree on or even define the appropriate solutions, but they are of one mind that we need to do something and start somewhere.

Why not a Summit Series to bring all these concerns together? It's time for all of us to become more fully informed, to focus. It's time, perhaps, for us to ask, "Is there someone here who can make a decision?"

Make it, stat.

To reach Pat Glass, write to her c/o Bradenton Herald Metro Desk, 102 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.

Pat Glass

Citizen at Large


Find previous columns by Pat Glass in the Special Coverage area of our Web site.