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With reference to “3 doctors depart Mad River hospital,” (Times-Standard, Jan. 11, Page A1), medical treatment in Humboldt County is getting precarious. Clinics close, hospitals fire needed staff, doctors forced to perform front-desk functions, sacrificing their time with patients . . . it sounds like many of the scenarios anxiously predicted under a Medicare for All approach are happening right now.

So why the fear-mongering about a single-payer, universal healthcare system when it offers a sound solution to those problems; this is a program that addresses the inefficiency, financial concerns and provider availability head-on. In dealings with private health insurance companies, so much time and effort is wasted by hospitals and providers who are required to jump through endless hoops of rules, requirements, restrictions. Providers spend hours every day seeking approval for medically necessary procedures denied by non-medical bureaucrats whose bottom line is profit for shareholders. Hospitals, too, are becoming huge, conglomerates themselves in order to maximize funding that too often is not used to promote the safety and recovery of patients. Doctors who complain, as seen with Drs. Ervin, Hooper and Mahan, are simply let go. As Dr. Ervin observes, “Sadly, medicine has gotten to be very much a business model as opposed to taking care of patients . . . to eliminate half of your support staff and then (to) want you to be more productive doesn’t make any sense.” But apparently, trying to find an equitable way to resolve the impasse for these providers met with a “no deals” response. They hope, instead, for “some sort of event or symposium to discuss the issues and help figure out as a community how to address them.”

They, and all of us, should take note of the promise of a single-payer solution where hospitals would be endowed with yearly financial grants according to their needs and would save the energy now wasted on stripping themselves of needed services to maximize profits (or foundation deposits, as “non-profits” call it). Instead of up-front money being allocated to administrative pay, benefits, bonuses and for duplicative medical equipment, money would first be used to ensure adequate nursing and support for actual patients. With single payer, regional planning would be based instead on the needs of the community where every person would have equal status as a “paying customer” so that rural as well as urban areas would be profitable for providers. Plans for a single-payer system would also include incentivizing rural medical providers and specialists. Ultimately, as Dr. Hooper observes, “. . . the real culprit is our for-profit medical system as a whole,” and is therefore something we need desperately to jettison in favor of universal, single-payer health care.

The public is always welcome to monthly health care meetings at The Sanctuary in Arcata, fourth Wednesdays. For more info about single payer: healthcareforallhumboldt@gmail.com or healthcareforall.org.

Patty Harvey resides in Willow Creek.

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