Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fisherman's Hospital

My wife had surgery last week in Marathon and she is now carrying around a screw buried in her shoulder underneath a number of stitches. I was, as usual, the designated driver and because she nixed the Bonneville (on the grounds of inconvenience) I was forced to dust off the Maxima to make the half hour trip North. I am no great fan of the medical profession, I confess, and behind architects, bankers and insurance executives, like Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord High Executioner, I have a little list of society offenders- and they never would be missed. However on this our second visit to Fisherman's Hospital I found myself waiting in a room equipped with all the necessities while my wife was prepared for the cutting board by a bunch of cheerful nursing people. The atmosphere in Fisherman's is much more relaxed and peaceful than the chaotic frenzy I have found to be normal operating procedure at Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island, and given a choice this is where I'd rather come.

My wife was first in line for Dr Collin's knife and while I had the waiting room to myself, she amazing to relate was wheeled in precisely on time. Indeed, the operation was scheduled to take ninety minutes with 45 minutes recovery time which gave me all the time needed to go home and do some chores. At least I didn't have to sit around as I have been forced to do in Miami hospitals and have the curse of the idiot box blaring nonsense while I wait. I used the "off" switch in Marathon while I waited for word that I could go home:I find the presence of television screens in every possible public place to be an unwarranted intrusion. If reading is beyond the capacity of those in line you'd think the modern array of electronic gadgetry allied with a headset would provide all the mindless entertainment they need without inflicting bizarre "bread and circus" television drama on the rest of us. When I returned some other person waiting in this room was drooling helplessly while he watched people on the screen arguing about some domestic infelicity in a televised court room. I don't think he was improved much by the experience.I have got bogged down in Robert Stone's latest book and I can't find my way out of a lot of abstruse Middle Eastern religion/politics/psychodrama set in Israel during one of the many intifadas/wars/guerrillas things that beset that drama-loving corner of the world. watching people trade insults on television seemed like a better alternative. Fortunately Fisherman's refused to let me down and my wife reappeared exactly on time, well cared for and drugged out of her mind. I came away making a mental note that come the revolution we will spare Fisherman's Hospital because they might very well be the best hospital in the Lower Keys. Not much competition I know, but this is where I want to be cut open when the time comes.


I grew up with single payer health care as a way of life and I have lived my adult life making sure health insurance is one of my monthly bills. I have never gone without coverage and for me that has been easy as I am healthy to all appearances and easy to insure. As I grow older I am more glad than ever that I work for the City of Key West that pays my monthly insurance premium and gives me coverage that is affordable and comprehensive. My wife has similar coverage from the School District. We have dealt in the past more directly with insurance companies and we have defeated them at their own game when they have inundated us with paper and refusals to pay for agreed medical bills. I hate our current system of reliance on an unaccountable, opaque, profit driven health insurance monster that consumes more money and produces more incomprehensible paperwork than any health care system of any industrialized nation.

In this case my wife's shoulder injury was caused at work, a classroom exercises gone wrong, and Worker's Compensation covered the costs. We had no co-pays, no out of pocket, no after the fact billing, no arguing, no paperwork. A Worker's Comp nurse took care of everything over the phone, treated us cheerfully and with respect and reminded me just how sweet single payer is. I watch the struggle for health care reform in Washington and I listen to the arguments against comprehensive change and I shake my head in amazement.

We are told that the bail out of the economic system is costing around 24 trillion dollars, imagine that, and a trillion dollar health care reform providing some sort of affordable coverage for all is supposedly out of reach. A surtax of 5% on those earning more than 350,000 dollars that we might pay for affordable coverage for all, is beyond the Pale. What a strange and unfathomable society I live in. I am more glad than ever for my job, my health insurance and my seniority at work. Apres moi, le deluge.