BY JEFF GOLDSMITH
Robert Frost once said, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
Increasingly, in our struggling society, that place is your local full service community hospital. During COVID, if it wasn’t your local hospital standing up testing sites, pumping out vaccinations and working double overtime helping patients breathe, we would have lost several hundred thousand more of our fellow Americans.
But it wasn’t just COVID where hospitals leaped into the breach. As primary care physicians’ practices collapsed from documentation overburden and chronic underpayment, hospitals took them in on salary. If it wasn’t for hospitals, vast swatches of the northern most three hundred miles of the US and large stretches of our inner cities would be a physician desert. Hospitals subsidize those practices to a tune of $150k a year to have a full service medical offering and keep their own doors open.
As our public mental health system withered, the hospital emergency department (and, gulp, police forces). became our main mental health resource. Tens of thousands of mentally ill folks languish overnight in hospital observation units because, despite not being “acutely ill”, there is nowhere for the hospital to place them. And as our struggling long term care facilities withered under COVID, those mentally ill folks were joined in observation by seriously impaired older folks too sick to be cared for at home. As funding for public health has withered on the vine, hospitals have become the de facto public health system in the US.Continue reading…