The coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping across the world has highlighted how ill-prepared the U.S. healthcare system has become for dealing with a national health emergency of this potential magnitude.
The U.S. has lagged far behind other nations in terms of testing our citizens to determine whether they have contracted Covid-19. Not only did our government not have anywhere near the number of test kits available to meet the demand for testing, but those that we did have were defective.
As a result, we have lost precious time in identifying how many of our citizens have the disease and the extent of the outbreak in specific parts of the country.
Cutbacks in the budgets of the federal agencies responsible for ensuring our nation’s health have reduced the ability of the federal government to respond to such threats speedily and competently.
However, there is a much-deeper problem that has been looming for years.
The closing of community hospitals throughout the nation in the past few decades has created a crisis that already has placed our healthcare system at the breaking point — a situation that will only get worse as the Baby Boomers begin to reach their late 70s and 80s.
Anybody who has been to a hospital emergency room recently knows all too well that our healthcare system is woefully inadequate even in the best of times.
The 46,500 beds in intensive care in the United States are occupied virtually 24/7/365 by mostly elderly persons with a wide range of health issues. Covid-19, if uncontrolled, might lead to up to 1.9 million ICU admissions, according to projections presented to the American Hospital Association — a situation for which we have nowhere near the capacity or capability. Even without a pandemic or similar national health emergency, our health care system is a disaster waiting to happen in the years ahead.