Over at Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda posted this letter from a “very good friend.” Does every patient in London get such good care? Probably not. But I have heard similar stores—and the UK does not have the best care abroad. (The NHS is still under-funded, though each year they’re putting more money into it.) France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark any Switzerland all boast better care.
Finally, see the American doctor’s reaction at the end. I wonder if he has ever been in a hospital in London?
Five hours into an 11-hour flight to London last month I had a heart-related medical "incident" that caused me to faint, hitting my head on a trolley on the way down giving myself a concussion in addition to whatever else was ailing me. Although I (stupidly) refused the wheelchair and ambulance the airline had waiting for me at Heathrow, upon arrival at my hotel I was sent to the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital in London where I spent the next 24 hours.
I have to say that I received the BEST medical attention I have ever had or witnessed anywhere in the U.S. Upon arrival in the emergency room I was immediately seen by an administrator who did the necessary paperwork with a sense of urgency I've never seen in the U.S. I never even had a moment to take a seat. I was then admitted to the treatment area where for the next 3 hours I received a steady stream of nurses and – not one – but THREE doctors in rapid succession as checks and balances against each other. (At one point the three doctors convened and argued about my diagnosis just like the doctors on television who only have one patient to care about – and actually care.)
In addition to a battery of blood tests, temperature-takings and blood-pressure checks, I had THREE ECGs, TWO X-rays and a CAT-scan before being admitted for an overnight on a heart monitoring machine. After repeated attempts and many delays, they were finally able to get my cardiologist in L.A. on the phone to consult my records and get his opinion. The next day I continued a battery of tests all day long and was told they wanted to keep me for 3-4 days for monitoring and more tests. I refused and demanded to be released as I had to get to the business meetings I was there for – but promised to follow-up with my cardiologist when I returned to L.A. For the next ten days, I received phone calls every couple of days from one of the doctors who had seen me (not a nurse, a real DOCTOR) to make sure everything was alright and that I wasn't experiencing symptoms.
The hospital was the cleanest I've ever seen, was stocked with the latest technology and the most attentive and empathetic staff I've ever seen. Had I been an EU resident, all of this treatment would have been free. As an American, I was allowed to walk out without a bill, but was later mailed a bill for — get this — $600. That's right – six hundred dollars! ONE NIGHT in Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles – without any tests – starts at $15,000. The last time I paid for a CAT-scan it was about $1,800.
I am no stranger to hospitals in the U.S. I've had more than my share of emergencies and have been rushed twice by ambulance with life-threatening conditions only to be kept waiting on a gurney in a hallway for up to five hours. One unforgettable incident was being kept waiting five hours at St. Joseph's Hospital in Santa Monica while my organs were in shut-down mode. The doctor later told me I was hours from death. Another time I was rushed unconscious while tumors had caused blockages of my large and small intestines. They wrongly thought I might have a ruptured appendix. While waiting five hours to be admitted, I was given an enema to try to clear the blockage. Had I had the ruptured appendix they suspected, this would have killed me.
I can only hope that the American health care system will become like the UK's. Even the hospital food was good!
Oh – and by the way – when I got home and saw my cardiologist, he completely ridiculed and belittled the Brits for "over-reacting" and "throwing mud at the wall". He explained that the reason they reacted as they did was because "they didn't know what they were doing". He offered the tests they recommended, but I'd have to wait 6-8 weeks to get on the docket at an outpatient facility and it was going to cost many thousands of dollars and he doubted my insurance would cover it. No thanks! I'm planning on getting the tests when I return to London next month