I recently read a story about a pregnant woman in a “third world country” who went into labor early. Because of several miscarriages, stillbirths and a Cesarean section, she was considered very high risk… so much so that the area midwife refused to take on the responsibility of birthing this child.
Her husband was frantic as he borrowed a car from a stranger and drove her to the nearest hospital — only to be turned away because they said they were not prepared for high-risk births. She was driven to the next hospital hours away and when they arrived late at night they were told the doctor who delivered babies was home sleeping and could not be disturbed. Even more desperate the husband soon was speeding along tenuous roads to a hospital even further away.
Meanwhile this woman’s labor had advanced and, knowing that there was no way they could make it in time, she screamed that the baby was coming. The father to be stopped the car and helped his wife as she delivered a beautiful and thankfully healthy little boy. He even knew how to tie and cut the cord before wrapping the newborn in his shirt and handing the bundle to the new mom.
This true tale happened in 2021, but not in America. For sure this could never happen here…
Then I thought of all the inequities throughout our own country during this past year and this COVID crisis. We have all heard of the overcrowded situations as critically ill patients were quarantined in hospitals, we’ve heard about the overworked healthcare workers, and of course we’ve heard about the lack of supplies and respirators. What so many of us didn’t want to hear or acknowledge was how hospitals located in and near to low-income areas had far less nurse-to-patient ratio, less respirators and less personal attention to each patient. Lower income neighborhoods also typically offered fewer testing sites than higher income neighborhoods which added to more advanced cases and more infectious contacts by the time a patient came to the hospital.
Meanwhile, while no one was immune to this often-deadly virus, there did seem to be more equipment and more staff where wealthier patients lived. In more financially stable communities the general health was also better with less untreated high-risk conditions to complicate the infection. When the former president caught COVID, he was treated with a new drug, not yet formally approved by the FDA, and manufactured in scarce quantities. Donald Trump was given the VIP treatment because of his status as president; some of the wealthiest individuals also routinely receive VIP treatment during hospitalizations. While there are many selfless doctors and nurses, there are also many high-priced doctors and staff who gravitate to hospitals where pay and working conditions are better.
There are some who claim this disparity in treatment and available medicines and equipment has to do with social and financial status. There are those who believe this inequity is based on whether the patient is white or not. Still there is a third belief that insurance is partly to blame as companies decide what treatment or medicine is worth their investment — of course those who can afford it tend to have better insurance coverage, so again maybe it does come down to wealth.
America is not known as a “third world country”, but even in those less developed areas, there should be no inequity in life-saving treatment for any human being. And especially in our American cities, every person deserves VIP-level care and treatment.