Each week, I make rounds at my University’s Mobile Health Clinic. There, I treat uninsured, undocumented, low-income, and mitigated communities, each of them having experienced the trials of the American healthcare system. Diabetics come in rationing insulin, dental consults are needed, and so many patients are barred from access to healthcare. To them, the pandemic that is coronavirus is their everyday experience.
In most cases, my patients have limited access to transportation, cannot afford medications, or simply cannot make it to our clinic for testing. Due to coronavirus, patients across the country are now facing similar situations due to physical distancing - unable to make it to a primary provider. This is a wake-up call to our healthcare system that we unequivocally need to do better. This virus may be small, but it is an invisible threat making use of the playground that is the United States. Here, we have ignored the problem for too long with the US now having more cases than any other country globally. This response to the pandemic is not unusual. If you were to place a frog in boiling water it would jump out immediately, but let the frog rest at room temperature water and slowly increase the simmer will kill the frog unexpectedly. This means that we tend to under-react to long term problems, but overreact to to problems facing us now.
The Trump administration’s mistakes show the larger problems at play, including the bungling of diagnostic tests and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention being too slow to adopt suggestions made by the FDA. While cases continue to rise, patients will start making difficult decisions.
For the 26 million Americans that lack health insurance, will it be worth it to lose money in order to call a health care provider? And for the 60 million that do have private insurance, will this raise their deductibles? The Miami Herald reported that a man was charged over $3,000 (Dhs11,000) just getting examined at the hospital. These fears do not even include those of the 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States that are so afraid of legal persecution that they will not even get tested.
Worse, patients arriving at hospitals or doctor’s office, many face shortages in healthcare personal, a shortage in ventilators, or shortages in life saving medications.
In this pandemic, our savior will be technology, but it depends on how we use it. The United States needs to invest in better, more affordable Tele-Medicine communication systems, rapid at home testing kits, and vaccine technology.
This pandemic may be new to some of us, but for so many Americans our adaptation to healthcare during coronavirus is their 24/7 in the US healthcare industry. As global citizens, we have a duty to call on injustice, and the exposure of the lack of adequate and equal access to healthcare has not only been exposed but has been cut wide open.
Words by Ahmad Ibsais