Deficiencies in US Healthcare Uncovered by Covid-19

US has long been perceived as the world’s biggest Super Power, not only in terms of financial strength but also in regards to power, authority, facilities, education system, etc. As far as the healthcare system is concerned, that of US is believed to be the best in the world. But the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shattered all those beliefs. Despite best-in-class healthcare facilities, doctors, researchers, medicines, and hospitals, US has emerged out as the epicenter for the disease, and it is one of the most badly affected countries in the world. Surprisingly, the rapid spread of the disease across the US has exposed some cruel deficiencies in the healthcare delivery system of the country.

Lack of Primary Care Facilities

Although US doctors and hospitals are best in the world for providing relief from some of the most complex diseases and conditions in the medical world, their healthcare system falls short on providing primary care facilities to the patients. Primary healthcare proves to be of utmost importance in times of epidemics like Covid-19. In such times, what common people seek the most is trustable advice, consultation, and basic healthcare. Due to the lack of primary care, people feel confused and panicked, and they rush to the hospitals even if they are not actually ill. This delays healthcare to those who actually need it. Apart from that, healthy people rushing to the hospitals for unnecessary reasons end up infecting themselves, and infected people end up infecting more people they come in contact with during these rush times.

Even if a Covid-19 vaccine comes up sooner or later, US will again need a robust primary healthcare system to distribute it among the masses, which they already lack. One solution would be to create ad-hoc healthcare systems in the country, who will not only dispense the vaccine but will also advise the masses about Covid-19, whether they have some real issues or they are just panicked.

Low Healthcare Reserves and Capacity

Another deficiency that is found in the healthcare system of the US is its low healthcare reserves and its inability to handle a large number of cases at a time during the Covid-19 type of crisis. For example, several US hospitals have closed down or merged over the last few years, due to which the system is facing a lack of hospital beds. As a result of this, many patients are seen flocking over the hospital stretchers, floors and halls even during flu seasons. According to the Washington Post, even some of the best hospitals in the US, like the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, are struggling hard to get prepared for the epidemic.

At present, US has access to 160,000 ventilators only, which are very less considering the number of critical Covid-19 patients who need support to breathe. These patients will need ICU beds as well, which are currently only 45,000 in the US. In times of severe Covid-19 outbreak, around 3 million people will demand ICU care, which US may not be able to fulfill. The problem is even more serious in rural areas, where there is a dearth of healthcare experts and emergency facilities even during normal times.

Over the last few years, a number of new illnesses have been coming up in the world, like swine flu, SARS, MERS, bird flu, and many others. But the US healthcare system is still not prepared. Costs related to stand-by capacity are not included in routine hospital payments by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, due to which the ability to include more hospital supplies and beds gets limited.

US has a strategic petroleum reserve that it can use in times of crisis. Similarly, it needs a reserve system in the field of healthcare, as well. Unfortunately, US has failed to provide even the necessary healthcare relief in the past epidemics. Considering this, the country needs a robust reserve of healthcare facilities, so that they can stay prepared for such crisis situations.

What US Needs to do?

The US needs to carefully examine its healthcare reserve system and determine how to create such reserves. A public-private task force should be established that should be given the responsibility of creating a plan and submitting it to Congress and the White House. Apart from creating reserves, the plan should also include ways to protect healthcare professionals from infections during infectious epidemics like Covid-19. It is during crisis times like Covid-19 pandemic that the deficiencies in the US healthcare system get exposed to the world.

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