Health care woes

Cooper Green, Jefferson County’s Hospital offering the only care for those in this part of the country lacking the income and resources to seek private care, is struggling to keep its head above water. The implications for folks like Edwina are huge.

The two departments being slated for closure are oncology (Clinic E, where I’ve spent a good many days with Edwina, Lisa, Charles, and Roderick) and ob/gyn. Since these are apparently the most expensive departments to run, the hospital is being forced by county commissioners to shut them down or go without any backing whatsoever.

There’s a lot of blame going back and forth in the local media, some saying that the hospital is mismanaged and others saying the hospital was doing ok until government folks got too far into administrators’ business. Regardless of where to point the finger, though, the outcome is the same. People needing cancer care, or prenatal care, are going to be out of luck unless they can find a way to get help elsewhere. And while Cooper Green is working hard to place its current oncology patients with facilities throughout the city, chances are that many patients who would have gone to Cooper Green now won’t seek any sort of care. Folks simply slip through the cracks.

I’ve been working with one of the key people at Cooper Green to hold the next Street Smarts event there. The program would be the same as when we held it at Church of the Reconciler, but we were hoping to offer participants this time around an opportunity to register as a patient at the facility and an optional breast exam by a doctor or nurse. The fate of those homeless women we might have reached is now uncertain.

I’ll be publishing an op-ed in The Birmingham News a week from today comparing the situation at Cooper Green with the tiered health care system in Nepal. Whether we want to admit it or not, care in America also operates according to tiers–the more a patient has money and insurance-wise, the better the care.

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