Why Does Swine Flu Kill More Mexicans Than Americans?

Because Mexico has national health "care."

The swine flu death rate appears to be higher in Mexico than in the United States.  That means that a Mexican who gets swine flu is more likely to die than an American who catches the same disease.  Why is this?  Are Americans healthier than Mexicans?

Not really.  The difference is in the way the medical systems operate in the two countries.  In "Mexico says suspected swine flu deaths now at 149," the Associated Press reports:

In Toluca, a city west of the capital, one family said health authorities refused to treat a relative Sunday who had full-blown flu symptoms and could barely stand. The man, 31-year-old truck driver Elias Camacho, was even ordered out of a government ambulance, his father-in-law told The Associated Press.

Paramedics complained that Camacho - who had a fever, was coughing and had body aches - was contagious, Jorge Martinez Cruz said.

Family members took him by taxi to a public hospital, but a doctor there denied Camacho was sick and told the trio to leave, Martinez said.

"The government told us that if we have these symptoms, we should go to these places, but look how they treat us," Martinez said. Camacho was finally admitted to the hospital - and placed in an area marked "restricted" - after a doctor at a private clinic notified state health authorities, Martinez said.

Jose Isaac Cepeda, who has had fever, diarrhea and joint pains since Friday, said he was turned away from two hospitals - the first because he isn't registered in the public health system, and the second "because they say they're too busy." [emphasis added]

Think about this for a moment.  An epidemic of swine flu is starting.  The government has warned citizens far and wide to rush to the doctor if they think they've caught it - but ambulance attendants wouldn't take the man because he "was contagious."

Ambulance staff neglecting their duty isn't new; we've written about ambulance drivers in England who let a man die because he "wasn't worth saving."  For reasons we'll explain, this sort of behavior is typical of people who work for national health systems be they in England or in Mexico.

When Mr. Camacho eventually reached medical facilities under his own power, after infecting God only knows how many other people along the way, one hospital turned him away because his paperwork wasn't in order and the other was "too busy."

Only when he turned in desperation to a private clinic did a doctor examine him and with proper due diligence notify the authorities.  Then he finally ended up in hospital quarantine where he should have been all along.

National Health Care Works Bureaucratically

People who advocate national health care systems don't want to admit it, but this is how national plans work.  Hospitals are given a budget.  Once they have the budget, they can spend that much money and no more.  If they get too many sick people, they turn them away because they're "too busy."

Any unionized government employee knows how to look busy; there's no effective way to catch employees underperforming.  The only reason this very sick man didn't go home to infect his entire neighborhood was his own persistence in ensuring that a private doctor saw him.

Why did the doctor take him in?  Because the private doctor is paid for everything he does.  The more he does, the more he gets paid.  The more efficient he is, the more people he can see, the more money he makes.

Seeing more people won't get a national hospital an increase in budget - it will actually cost them more money for disposable gloves, tongue depressors, and whatnot that are consumed by everyone they see.  Seeing more people simply means that the doctors and nurses have to work harder for the same pay.  What sensible union member would do that?

Letting Patients Die Is The Easy Way Out

Scragged recently wrote about England's Baroness Warnock who said that senile old people had a duty to die because they cost the National Health Service too much money.

Urging old people to commit suicide by supplying them with lethal drugs is one solution, but nobody wants to admit to doing that.  The British health bureaucracy has found a subtler path to achieve the same thing - admit old people, but don't bother to treat them.

In "To sack a nurse for exposing cruelty is a farcical injustice," the Guardian reports:

Imagine that you are a frail, elderly person, perhaps in the last days or weeks of your life.  You are so sick that you have been admitted to a hospital ward for care.  But care is rarely what you get.  Instead you have entered a nightmare world in which weakness is punished and misery ignored.

You are lying in bed, gaunt and almost breathless, the bones in your pale face etched against the pillow.  You are whispering because the pain is so acute.  You tell the nurses - delicately, almost apologetically - that you are in agony.  You do not know that it is because the drugs for your terminal cancer are being wrongly administered, and that you are suffering needlessly as you die.  All you know is that no one cares.

The Guardian reported how a nurse took a camera into the wards; her vivid evidence of maltreatment was shown on the BBC.  What happened?  She was fired, of course:

Twelve days ago the Nursing and Midwifery Council announced, in one of the year's most outrageous decisions, that Margaret Haywood, the nurse who filmed those scenes for BBC's Panorama, would be struck off the nursing register in perpetuity. [emphasis added]

She was fired even though the final report said "There was a failure to meet basic human needs," but what else would anyone expect?  She got between a bureaucracy and its rice bowl.

Bureaucrats hate anyone who interferes with their desire to make work easy on themselves.  The beauty of this scheme is that the old people fill hospital beds which justifies the budget, but since the hospital doesn't spend much effort treating them, unionized nurses don't have to work hard.

Unions and bureaucrats have exactly the same goals - have less work do to this year, get more money next year, and end up with a generous retirement.  The percentage of unionized American workers has been declining for years because unionized businesses can't operate efficiently given the "work" ethic unions bring to the table.

We've explained how GM and Chrysler, poster children for the joys of unionization, simply can't compete with non-union manufacturers in the US.  Unionization thrives only in construction where laws require contractors to match union wages and in government which can raise taxes at will.  Businesses who have to deliver value to their customers simply can't be both unionized and competitive.

The unionized, taxpayer-funded hospital described by the Guardian isn't a pleasant place to be ill:

Old people are left to sit or lie in their own urine.  One old woman is left in her soaking bed for almost nine hours because nurses won't fix her catheter.  Some patients are too sick or shaky or confused to feed themselves.  They go hungry, while some of the nurses eat the patients' food in the ward kitchens.  Patients die alone and unnoticed.

This is how government-provided services always work.  Once the government sets the budget, the staff has every incentive to do as little work as they can get away with.  What's wrong with sneaking a little time off?  You have less work to do and these old people ought to be dead anyway.  After all, celebrity ethicist Baroness Warnock said so and she ought to know.

The left has been calling for universal nationalized health care in America for many years.  We've explained why that's a bad idea, but perhaps that's the wrong point.

As we see in England, Mexico, and most other places where it's been tried, the trouble with universal nationalized health care isn't just that it doesn't work - it's that there's no such thing.

Voters think they have health care, but all they have is a health system.  Mr. Camacho and the unfortunate elderly "patients" in England, not being wealthy or powerful, simply didn't get diligent care from their much-vaunted and costly government system.

When the epidemic came and he really needed health care - as in, actual caring treatment - Mr. Camacho had to go to a private clinic.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments
Governments and organizations like WHO are in control of Tamiflu and Relenza supplies. The decision of who gets these drugs, and who lives or die is apparently another function of government's heath care programs. www.ahrcanum.com
May 4, 2009 9:59 AM
I'm not sure how doctors getting 'paid for exactly how much they do' is somehow going to ensure better quality healthcare than in a nationalised system. Surely you open the door to the opposite extreme - doctors just 'rush' patients out the door to get more done, leading to just as many cases of shoddy work, or unnecessary treatements being prescribed (something I have personally seen).
The true question is about the quality of the doctors and other workers in the healthcare industry, regardless of how their pay is come by. Poor training and flexible or questionable ethics is something entirely seperate from 'unionisation' and 'nationalisation', and I find it offensive that they are being hijacked for this argument.
On a side note, I am from New Zealand, which does have a perfectly fine national healthcare system (alongside private healthcare), which is not perfect but serves its purpose. I am in good health after having used it many times. The staff of this system are far from the lazy, unprincipled bludgers that this article would suggest. I know this as it includes several of my family members. They take pride in doing a good job just as much as the next person.
The author of this article does not seem to be aware of the offense he may be causing to the genuinely hardworking, caring, and highly principled staff of public health systems around the world.
The values of a society and its subcultures, and the quality of its education in the health industry and beyond, are the true issues here. To hijack this as ammunition in an argument about how the health infratstructure is run is a crude move in my opinion.
August 24, 2009 5:59 AM
The basic fundamentals of bacteria classifications seems to be neglect to evolutions standards. Due to the fact we have only explored 10% of the ocean. under water sea vents and Hot Water Springs are not common to inform general public nor scientist just as to what bacteria's are hosting with in it. Unknown species with out any sense of past knowledge for existence. FACT: Majority of all bacteria located in hot water springs show the highest dominating organisms ever in known history to survive or reproduce life its self in such a habitat of only it species alone. Microscopic History cant define where to begin our evolution of comprehension due to the fact that The basic fundamentals of bacteria classifications as we yesterday knew it is now duplicated and processed, at a speed of atoms
Beyond recovery of recollection providing zero physical evidence to specifications in past breed chain to compare with what research fundamentals from our past knowledge is only of basic generals with out the slightest example as where to compare define and establish towards classifying with out knowing the offspring for educated guess. Fact bacteria does not need oxygen to survive, meaning its possibilities have vary few limits and boundaries. No Known past generational breed gives bacteria's own cause, process or effect of what and where it can host. LIMITLESS BACTEARA DOMINATION of all living populations because the host can immune and adjust for adaptation there for I conclude the main cause of new known origin of world epidemics corresponds to hot springs and sea vent exposure in remote locations.
December 29, 2009 4:02 PM
April 29, 2010 6:04 PM
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