Corporate greed: it’s enough to make you sick
IN about 20 years as a news reporter I heard lots of promises made by politicians. But it was the former state ALP government under Premier Bob Carr that more than any failed to deliver on most of its promises.
The Sussex Street Labor HQ was renowned for its strategy or announcements, followed by re-announcements, leading into re-re-announcements and so on, but nothing ever actually happened with most of these – not out this way at least.
Now, in a few short years we’ve had a bonanza of promises and delivered projects from the Baird state coalition government, when in all those 16 years of Labor almost nothing happened – this is pretty amazing, and a credit to the current administration.
I’m not a fan of the two party system and or of many of our politicians, but the figures on what’s been delivered health-wise to our area of the state are almost unbelievable. Consider this: $91.3 million to Dubbo Base (I’ll always call it that), most of which came from the state; almost $73 million at Parkes, $40-odd million at Forbes; $12 million at Peak Hill; $15 million at Molong and Gulgong’s recently had a new hospital built after the previous government shut it down. Apparently Mudgee is next in line.
That’s more than a quarter of a billion dollars just in our little patch.
But now I think the government needs the courage to look well into the future for affordable solutions to our crippling health problems before we’re overwhelmed.
Bricks and mortar are much needed, for all sorts of reasons including the fact state of the art facilities make it easier to attract medical professionals out this way, but that’s only part of the equation.
Australia has an ageing population and generally, we’re sicker than we’ve ever been before, and we’re paying for it.
Medical costs are rising far faster than tax revenues and at some stage the health budget could consume the state’s capacity to pay.
We’re no different to other western nations in this regard and thankfully way better off than the USA.
Let’s look at the health problems of the US against some of the countries you’d not usually compare with America.
In the USA it costs more than $US40,000 for a hip replacement; in Spain just $7400 – so people are realising they can fly to Spain, live there for a while, learn the language, get a hip replacement, go back home and still be well in front.
In the US, it costs $1994 for a patient to spend a basic day in hospital; in Cuba it’s $5.49; inpatient hernia surgery in the US is $12,489; Cuba $14.59. A kidney transplant is $4902 in Cuba versus $48,758 in the US.
Many experts claim Cuba’s healthcare system is comparable to that of western nations, so it’s not like we’re comparing apples with oranges – Cuba’s life expectancy is 78, equivalent to the US, yet the health spend per person is just four per cent, less than $200 compared with approximately $4540 in America. And Cuba doesn’t have obesity epidemics and many of the other modern-world health problems.
One article posted to economic website Dollars and Sense tried to explain the discrepancy: “The US has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world, including over 1500 different companies, each offering multiple plans, each with its own marketing program and enrolment procedures, its own paperwork and policies, its CEO salaries, sales commissions and other non-clinical costs and of course, if it’s a for-profit company, its profits.”
Australia’s not quite so far down that path but because our leaders for decades have seemed obsessed with mimicking everything the US does, we’re well on the way to seeing administration costs eat up one third of the health dollars, and having private health providers over-diagnose to put more cash in their pockets.
Research by Dr Ray Moynihan from Bond University in QLD in 2013 discovered that three of every four doctors who work on the committees that define the parameters of diseases have ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Allied to the pharmaceutical industry putting profits before people we have the food industry, much of which is owned by the same people.
A cynic would say they’re being paid enormous sums to make us sick, and are rewarded with huge sums to keep us sick enough to keep buying their prescription medicine.
In the US, the various lobby groups do behind-the-scenes deals to grab as big a share of the “official” food pyramid as possible, so the government dietary guidelines are little more than a joke over there, and that insidious influence extends all the way across the Pacific as well.
Because the USA has blockaded Cuba and enforced all sorts of sanctions on that island nation, the people there haven’t been exposed to corporate chemical agricultural practices to the same degree as the western world.
Since synthetic fertiliser has come onto the scene, Australia’s soil fertility has plummeted along with its carbon mass and water-holding capability, which means not only do our soils lose moisture more quickly during dry times, the nutrients humans need don’t get into the food chain because they’ve been burned out.
With health costs of the future a major concern we should have an independent unit in place which looks at this issue from an holistic perspective.
Start with our soils and make sure we either adjust our farming systems so any products contaminating our food supply can’t be used, or tax the companies adding to our health bill in this way so taxpayers don’t carry the burden.
We need clear and simple labelling on all our foods. Produce grown without any artificial or synthetic input shouldn’t need to be labelled as organic, it should just be “food”. Products with ingredients such as MSG and aspartame or GMOS should have that in stand-out letters, just like our plain packaging for cigarettes.
When we’re all happy hippy, which is really just following the same basic principles Australians did prior to the late 1940s, we can start looking at all sorts of other “alternative” to commercial western medical solutions.
A personal case study is my own back, which caused me chronic and sometimes unbearable pain over a 10 year period.
Many doctors wanted to cut and fuse and all sorts of things, but the problem was eventually solved by a very smart physio and eventually Pilates – at far less cost to the community.
These sorts of treatments should be far more available to people of lesser means. Let’s pour some of the health billions into Medicare bulk-billing for Pilates classes, or at least a trial of some occupations such as police and paramedics where back injuries are commonplace – I believe many who have to be pensioned off as sick would fully recover and be back at work.
I love these new hospitals and have seen enough to know how lucky we are when it comes to acute care and medical emergencies, and it’s getting better all the time.
But for the raft of quite easily preventable chronic diseases, which are also causing so many mental health issues, we need to cut the cause off at the source, not reward those who are causing the problems in the first place.
We need to cut the cause off at the source, not reward those who are causing the problems in the first place.