Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Far Do You Drive for Medical Care? British Surgery Rejects Patient

According to the Daily Telegraph, the West Road Surgery ordered 83-year-old Avril Mulcahy to choose a different doctor because the two-mile drive to their clinic was too far:

Like many of the commenters, I suspect the real reason had to do with Mrs. Mulcahy's relationship with someone at the clinic. [Edit: a few hours after this post first appeared, Erica Ritz checked and confirmed that Mrs. Mulcahy also suspects this:]

But I'll post this, just to give the West Road idjits conniption fits: Here in Gate City, 83-year-old patients have a choice between hospitals in Kingsport (the closest is at least ten miles from downtown Gate City), in Norton (40-50 miles), or if their condition seems to require it Pikeville(high-rated hospital; about 100 miles).

All patients I've visited have chosen one of the hospitals in Kingsport.

However, the situation gets worse. For most of my lifetime, if no able-bodied person had offered to drive a Gate City patient to the hospital, the patient would have made a local call to a taxicab stand, and a driver would have come out immediately (in a relatively small and sensible car). Misguided altruists have, however, enabled a Cape Cod-based charity to submarine these locally owned businesses, using a mix of federal tax dollars, donations, and a fare that's not far below what the cabs used to charge, to subsidize the replacement of normal cabs with huge, awkward paratransit vans. I don't know whether there's any special reason for this, but these vans seem to have no shock absorbers whatsoever. They have to be scheduled a day ahead, and patients will be billed if a relative or ambulance takes them to the hospital during the night. The organization collects and stores personal information about patients, and my experience has been that chatty drivers divulge this personal information to other passengers (for example, a M.E.O.C. bus driver was the first to tell me that two male passengers were a "gay" couple). The vans are definitely not fuel-efficient, nor is the organization cost-efficient. And before transporting a Gate City patient to either Kingsport or Norton, the van will first have to be driven out from Big Stone Gap--another thirty-five miles.

These "Mountain Empire Older Citizens" vans are theoretically available to the public for use as buses, but the public seem to resist using them, very likely because they dislike the intrusiveness and inefficiency of the organization. M.E.O.C. shows no interest in advertising regular city-bus-type service and, although I tried about a year ago to raise interest in steering the organization in this badly needed direction, the community did not support it.

As some readers may remember, Yahoo published an article of mine, publicizing the Yuma computer center, with the subtitle "Here Comes the Bus." After the article was published several more people came to the Yuma computer center--which is now closed anyway--but none of them was willing to ride the M.E.O.C. "bus." After a few guilty trips as the sole passenger in a van, I found it more efficient to walk, seven miles around the mountain, than to try to schedule a "bus" ride!

Why do we still see these vans on the street, anyway? Why does anyone in Gate City bother calling a company that doesn't even have a local phone number? Are that many of us really too cheap to support a locally owned taxicab company? I don't know. I do know that, if anybody out there is seriously interested in the health of our environment, they need to defund Mountain Empire Older Citizens and restore support to independent, locally owned, cash-based taxi service.

Meanwhile, this web site officially wishes Mrs. Mulcahy the best of British luck.