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The Cost of National Health Care: 16 Dead, and a Cover-up


An investigation has just found that British health officials deleted a damming report linking the death of 16 babies to poor practices at a UK hospital. Problems with Furness General Hospital’s maternity care were first raised in 2008; in 2010 the regional organization overseeing gave it a positive report. In 2011, however, an internal review by the Care Quality Commission found that abysmal care standards at the hospital were leading to mistreatment, injury, and death.

Some CQC mangers decided the report was too incriminating to be made public. The Telegraph reports:

The report describes a CQC official saying that he was ordered by a senior manager in March last year to destroy his review because it would expose the regulator to public criticism.

In the accounts of discussions between officials about what to do with the findings, one senior manager states: “Are you kidding me? This can never be in a public domain nor subject to FOI [a Freedom of Information request]. Read my lips.”

By 2011, the year this deleted report hit, the regional organization overseeing Furness had logged 600 “excess deaths” in the past four years, the highest in the country.

Obviously the entire National Health System doesn’t suffer from this degree of deception and quality failure, but the problems with Britain’s system have been systemic and frequent enough to raise questions about the wisdom of centralizing health care power in the state. Not only would a single-payer-style system slow down innovation; as we see from this case, it could also decrease accountability in the industry.

The past spring and summer have been full of revelations that have illustrated the government’s penchant for abusing power. The scandal at Furness General and the resulting cover-up suggests that the same principle could easily be applied to health care under a government-run program. Unfortunately, we seem to be rushing headlong toward just such a system.

[Glove image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • wigwag

    This Via Meadia post isn’t ready for prime time. People of good will can disagree about whether a single payer system is a good idea or a bad idea (in my opinion it’s a bad idea) but the idea that medical disasters at Furness Hospital in the U.K. tells us anything about how medical care should be paid for in the United States is silly to the point of being ridiculous.

    We don’t have single payer for obstetric care in the United States and we never have. Can Via Meadia possibly believe it wouldn’t be just as easy to find medical malpractice in the obstetric wards of American hospitals under our current system as it is to find horror stories in British hospitals under their single payer system?

    Even more absurd is Via Meadia’s attempt to connect medical malpractice at a relatively obscure British hospital with the IRS scandal and the rest of the faux scandals that the media was promoting a few weeks ago and have already been largely forgotten.

    Finally, Via Media’s suggestion that we seem to be headed towards single payer in the United States is evidence of seriously muddled thinking. Whatever Obamacare is, it’s not single payer.

    Anyone who wants single payer to succeed should work against Obamacare. If Republicans are successful at sabatoging Obamacare, there’s no chance we will go back to the previous system. Instead the next stop might be Obamacare. If it happens, Republicans will have no one but themselves to blame.

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