What really struck me about the contrast between Britain’s National Health System and what we have here in the US was not how I was treated during a surprise five-day stay at an NHS hospital in Oxford, where I was sent last summer after suddenly becoming acutely short of breath — though my treatment was excellent. It was what happened after I checked out and returned to our lodgings, preparing to fly back to the US the following morning.
It was a Sunday evening and my wife and I had just returned to our hostel from the hospital across town where I had been diagnosed with and treated for suspected congestive heart failure. Entering our room I realized I’d neglected to pick up the diuretic pills the doctor had prescribed for the plane to prevent my lungs from filling with fluid as they apparently did during our flight from Philadelphia 10 days earlier. Oh no! The pharmacies were closed and in any event I had no scrip, since medicines prescribed at the hospital are also dispensed there (for free) as patients are discharged. When I called the hospitalto speak with someone on the floor where I had been treated, Dr. Mridula Rajwani, who had overseen my care, answered. I explained what happened, apologizing profusely for having forgotten to collect my pills.
“Oh no,” she replied. “It’s our fault for letting you leave without your medicine. But no matter. I’ll have it messengered over to you straight away.”
I was stunned. She said a messenger would deliver my meds and sure enough, 50 minutes later a man arrived at the hostel with a brown envelope and handed it to me. I asked what I owed him. “Nothing sir,” he said, “I’m just doing my rounds.” He explained that many patients need medicines delivered after they’ve been in hospital, and that the hospital delivers them to those who cannot easily get to the hospital to pick them up. He had just added me to his route.
I tried to conceive of this happening in the US, where hospitals itemize each pill on a patient’s bill, and where an aspirin or Tylenol can run $15 or more (plus an additional charge for “administering” it), but the idea of free meds being delivered to a patient’s door for free here in the States by a hospital was simply beyond imagination…
To read the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF please go to Tarbell.org, the investigative reporting site, where it is currently running.