As the debate about healthcare is underway, we hear from the far left that a single-payer, government mandated program is the way to go. We hear from the far right that less government intervention and hands-off-my healthcare is the better approach. As both of the ideological arguments persist, the larger concern that is being heavily ignored is the lack of healthcare staff.
Even though Canada and England have fair criticism regarding their systems, the good and the bad, the fact of the matter is that the long waiting lines are not because of it being inefficient, it’s because they have a shortage of doctors and nurses. A friend of mine, a Canadian citizen, wanted to be a nurse there but she decided against it because the classes were in the same realm as that of a doctor. She said that half of the classes were irrelevant for nurses. “I might as well become a doctor,” she said out of frustration. Canada is not making it attractive enough for people to become nurses and the waiting lists for the nursing program are extremely long. In addition, in the United States, almost every school only has 20 seats every year for both dental hygiene and the nursing program. Another friend of mine waited two cycles before she was accepted into the nursing program and her GPA was 3.97.
Its economics 101: If the government, or any company for that matter, supplies something that is going to be in demand, then they also better staff up, too. It’s a mistake when any industry or company supplies a popular product, in this case, healthcare, but not provide the incentives or staff, e.g., healthcare staff to supply the demand. When supply doesn’t meet demand, then that’s how these long lines will persist and people will have a difficult time gaining access to healthcare, regardless if there was a public option, single-payer or non-government involvement.
There are long lines at the hospital ‘til this day. When I used to live in southeastern Massachusetts, the area in which I lived had one hospital for about four to five surrounding towns. One time I went in for a traditional doctor’s visit, and I waited three hours because I didn’t want to go to the clinic, which misdiagnosed what I had at the time. Why was the hospital having long waiting lines? Lack of staff, and that’s without having a single payer or a public option. The problem right now is lack of people to fill the multitude of healthcare positions. Every time I go online to review the job industry, medical positions are always constantly being posted. So, even without a government healthcare plan, we still have a problem of staffing up, and that isn’t being addressed by either party, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. I can’t say anything about England, but many of my friends from Canada have stated that their government hasn’t even begun to address the problem of understaffing in the healthcare industry. I hope that whatever the outcome is with this healthcare debate that the economists will need to address those concerns to our elected officials.
Originally published in The Cambridge Chronicle, February 18, 2010.