Tender Loving Health Care, Care of the Government

Those of you who are concerned about the quality of health care that would be provided by a government run program should visit the Veterans Administration hospital in Seattle. It would be a real eye-opener.

The Seattle VA facility is HUGE. There are patients everywhere. Many of those patients are very, very ill. It has a very large Oncology unit that includes bone morrow transplants, along with other advanced therapies.

I had occasion to spend a couple of days there recently because a family member was on an irreversible course out of this world and into the next. Watching someone go through that is nothing anybody ever wants to do. I approached the hospital with great trepidation because it was the last place on the planet I wanted to be. But, here is what I found:

It is the most user-friendly, patient-oriented place I have ever seen. This care starts before you even get into the hospital. Because it is so big, the hospital requires a lot of parking. Because of a construction project, the closest parking is far enough away so that someone who has trouble with mobility would find getting to the front door from their vehicle daunting, to say the least. So they have valet parking with big signs that say “NO TIPPING ALLOWED.” Your vehicle is whisked away when you get there and retrieved in a matter of minutes when you are ready to leave.

Inside the doors are lots of patients. Some are in lines, but the lines move easily along. I got about 20 steps into the building when a guy asked me if he could give me help finding where I was trying to go. I did not have to ask for help. It was volunteered, very specific and accurate. That kind of affirmative, helpful attitude continued throughout.

I was there for two very long days. We never had to use the buzzer to summon a nurse. The nurses came into the room to offer help and solace before we knew we needed it. And the routine was always the same. First the patient was attended to so that he was getting what he needed. Then the people who were there with the patient got asked if they needed anything, and if they did, it was produced right away. Three different physicians came to the room unbidden (one of them half a dozen times) just to see how the patient and his family were doing. His wife received several visits from a psychologist who helped however she could.

Everyone, from the guy who emptied the trash to the nursing staff to the doctors to the administrative staff, were kind, empathetic and helpful. The care was wonderful. The patient was unlucky and his life ended. But it was in spite of, not because of, the care he received, all provided by the government.

To borrow from Winston Churchill, we have nothing to fear from government health care but fear itself.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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