American Hospitals

This is probably not an informative post for most people who’ve visited my blog, but I thought I’d share a perspective.

Last week, I signed up for a health care plan, and discovered that the plan to which I’d signed up was offering free flu shots.  Not being one to pass up on an offer like that, I traipsed down to the local hospital’s paediatric division, to get my daughter ready for the flu season, with a scheduled stop at the adult clinic just down the street on the way home.

Upon arrival, it turned out that the whole family could get our shots at once, saving us a trip across the park to the adult shot clinic – a nice bonus for us.  Anyhow, once the forms were filled out, and the (now expected) confusion about the existence of people without social security numbers was sorted out, the deed was done. (And, I might add that the woman who did it was exceptional – I barely noticed the shot, and my 2 year old daughter looked at the woman and said “Ow…” before promptly forgetting all about it and enjoying the quickly offered princess sticker.  “Princess Sticker!!!”)

In any case, the real story is what happened after – although it was as much a non-event as the actual shot.  We walked back home, taking a short cut through one of the hostpital’s other buildings.  It was new, it was shiny and it was pimped out.  It looked like the set of Grey’s Anatomy or the set of a Holywood sponsored action movie that will shortly be blown into a million pieces by several action heroes.  I half expected the counters to glint and glitter like a cleaning product commercial.

But, it was also, in a way, surreal.  That hospital doesn’t exist to cure people, or to as a place of healing – or even to do research.  Unlike a Canadian hospital, which is the bulk of my experience with hospitals (although I did visit Danish hospitals disproportionately more than you might think for the length of time I was there), the whole building, it’s contents and it’s staff are all there to turn a profit.

It’s not a tangible difference, but it makes you think about the built in drug stores and cafeterias and posters advertising drugs in a slightly different light.

Why are they promoting that drug?  Would that security guard kick me out if he knew I didn’t have my ID card yet?  Is that doctor running down the hall just trying to cram in as many patients as possible?

It’s strange, because superficially, the hospital isn’t any different than a Canadian hospital (other than being newer than any I’ve ever visited, and the ever present posters advertising drugs, of course), and yet it’s function is different.  It’s roughly the difference between visiting a community centre and a country club.  In any other country in the western world, a hospital is open to all members of the community, whereas the hospitals here require a membership.  It’s just hard not to see it through the Canadian lens, which tells us it’s one of those things American’s “just can’t seem to get right.” Well, that’s the Canadian narrative – whether it’s right or wrong.

Anyhow, a hospital is a hospital: the net product of the hospital is keeping people healthy.  Whether it’s for profit or government run, it does the same things and works the same way.

At the end of the day, I can’t say anything other than that the experience was pleasant, and this is the first year that I’ve gotten a flu shot and didn’t get sick immediately afterwards.  So really, all in all, I guess you get what you pay for…  It’s just a new experience to see such a direct connection between the money and the services.

I just have to wonder how Americans see Canadian hospitals. (-:

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