Cor­po­rate greed: it’s enough to make you sick

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion & Analysis. - John Ryan

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.

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