Socialized Medicine Caused Richardson's Life?!?!?
Did Socialized Medicine have a hand in costing Natasha Richardson Her Life?
Natasha Richardson's death is hard to accept. Losing your life simply from a fall, just doesn't feel right to us. We want to think there is more to the story, something that would bring some sense to the events that cost Natasha her life.
Could Socialized Medicine have a part in this story, and have a hand in costing Natasha Richardson Her Life? Cory Franklin, who is a physician, walks through the steps of Natasha's tragic story, comparing the care she received in Canada, and the care she would have received in the U.S.
CANADACARE MAY HAVE KILLED NATASHA
New York Post
By Cory Franklin
COULD actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?
Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson's medical care haven't been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.
Richardson died of an epidural hematoma - a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive.
Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes.
Between noon and 1 p.m., Richardson sustained what appeared to be a trivial head injury while skiing at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec. Within minutes, she was offered medical assistance but declined to be seen by paramedics.
But this delay is common in the early stages of epidural hematoma when patients have few symptoms - and there is reason to believe her case wasn't beyond hope at that point.
About three hours after the accident, the actress was taken to Centre Hospitalier Laurentien, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, 25 miles from the resort. Hospital spokesman Alain Paquette said she was conscious upon reaching the hospital about 4 p.m.
The initial paramedic assessment, travel time to the hospital and time she spent there was nearly two hours - the crucial interval in this case. Survival rates for patients with epidural hematomas, conscious on arrival to a hospital, are good.
Richardson's evaluation required an immediate CT scan for diagnosis - followed by either a complete removal of accumulated blood by a neurosurgeon or a procedure by a trauma surgeon or emergency physician to relieve the pressure and allow her to be transported.
But Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts is a town of 9,000 people. Its hospital doesn't have specialized neurology or trauma services. It hasn't been reported whether the hospital has a CT scanner, but CT scanners are less common in Canada.
Compounding the problem, Quebec has no helicopter services to trauma centers in Montreal. Richardson was transferred by ambulance to Hospital du Sacre-Coeur, a trauma center 50 miles away in Montreal - a further delay of over an hour.
Because she didn't arrive at a facility capable of treatment (with the diagnosis perhaps still unknown) until six hours after the injury, in all likelihood by that time the pressure buildup was fatal. The Montreal hospital could not have saved her life.
Her initial refusal of medical care accounted for only part of the delay. She was still conscious when seen at a hospital and her death might have been prevented if the hospital either had the resources to diagnose and institute temporizing therapy, or air transport had taken her quickly to Montreal.
What would have happened at a US ski resort? It obviously depends on the location and facts, but according to a colleague who has worked at two major Colorado ski resorts, the same distance from Denver as Mt. Tremblant is from Montreal, things would likely have proceeded differently.
Assuming Richardson initially declined medical care here as well, once she did present to caregivers that she was suffering from a possible head trauma, she would've been immediately transported by air, weather permitting, and arrived in Denver in less than an hour.
If this weren't possible, in both resorts she would've been seen within 15 minutes at a local facility with CT scanning and someone who could perform temporary drainage until transfer to a neurosurgeon was possible.
If she were conscious at 4 p.m., she'd most likely have been diagnosed and treated about that time, receiving care unavailable in the local Canadian hospital. She might've still died or suffered brain damage but her chances of surviving would have been much greater in the United States.
American medicine is often criticized for being too specialty-oriented, with hospitals "duplicating" too many services like CT scanners. This argument has merit, but those criticisms ignore cases where it is better to have resources and not need them than to need resources and not have them.
Cory Franklin is a physician who lives outside of Chicago. 2009 Chicago Tribune; distributed by Tribune Media Services
Michelle Malkin cites Dr. T, who points to the shortage of neurosurgeons in Canada because of Socialized medicine:
Neurosurgeons are not so easy to find in Canada where subspecialization is not rewarded, and 50-60% of boarded neurosurgeons leave the country to practice somewhere else within 2 years of their certification.
The last good data I could find listed only 174 neurosurgeons in the entire country. In the U.S. we have 3,500. A study on the need of neurosurgeons listed the density of neurosurgeons in the U.S. to be about 1/55,000 people which means that an analogous number of neurosurgeons needed in Canada would be about 604.
It is true that neurosurgeons eschew emergency room coverage in the United States, but it is for completely different reasons than in Canada. Here, our ED's don't want to pay what it takes to hire a neurosurgeon for coverage; in Canada, no one wants to even be a neurosurgeon.
So, in a sense, the Canadian model for health care failed Natasha Richardson because of an artificially created shortage of subspecialists, which is a purposeful design meant to keep costs low in a taxpayer-funded-system. The U.S. would very much like to go in this direction and the plan is to broaden non subspecialized care options while reducing higher-tech procedures, diagnostics and physicians.
But as we go towards a single-payer system, we can all expect that when we need it most, the system will not be there for us, as it was not there for Natasha Richardson.
The United States has the best healthcare in the world - there is a reason folks from around the world (including Canada) come here for medical services. Our free market system provides incentives to deliver the best care at the best price, while rewarding those who take the risk in providing it. Conversely, the socialization of healthcare removes incentives - thus promoting the reduction in quality to people who need it the most.
The issue is not to exploit a tragedy. It is in everyone's interest to ask the hard questions, so the same mistakes are not repeated again. And socialized medicine is a mistake.