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article imageOp-Ed: Can battered health systems manage coronavirus? No.

By Paul Wallis     Jan 30, 2020 in Health
New York City - The coronavirus epidemic has made a lot of headlines, but answered few questions. Can the absurdly overpriced, overstretched Western health systems handle it? Don't bet on it.
The West has been very quick to criticize China’s “dictatorial” handling of the coronavirus epidemic, with some reason. Apparently the first response from authorities was to tell people not to spread rumours and charge doctors when coronavirus first appeared. The current This response, in fact, was at a local level, not a national level, and Party officials usually tend to respond negatively to possible problems.
The national response, however, has been vast in scope. It’s highly debatable whether the West could respond on such a scale, or so quickly. The battered, decrepit, and downright nasty health services in the West are barely able to manage routine demands as it is. Add to this the obscene costs and financial risks of treatment, and the hideous costs of medication. A highly contagious disease could easily crash the health systems. Coronavirus is exposing these weaknesses on an hourly basis.
The real risks with coronavirus
So far, coronavirus has infected a few thousand people, and killed 100 or so more. It’s not the apocalyptic “pneumonic plague” predicted to be the next major pandemic by any means at this point.
It is, however, pressing panic buttons around the world, and with good reason. The entire health sector knows full well the health systems could not possibly cope with a real major outbreak. It’s unlikely that the lucky victims could pay for hospitalization and treatment, either, in the United States or other privatization/insane prices-infected environments.
Too many questions, no answers
The simple fact is that the global health sector is in no condition to manage a big outbreak of any kind. Constant health cuts, at a time when medication usage is at incredible levels, isn’t helping. Public hospitals, or in fact any sort of public sector health measures at all, are frowned upon by conservative governments and/or bean counting governments.
Hospital capacity and on the ground health resources usually aren’t even theoretically close to being able to manage a big local flu epidemic, let alone a major global pandemic.
That leaves us with a few more questions:
1. What measures are in place in case of any large-scale epidemic?
2. What assets are in place to manage a highly contagious disease?
3. Can hospitals cope with an outbreak affecting thousands, let alone millions of people? (This question isn’t quite as unfair as it looks. That’s exactly what epidemiologist have been predicting for decades, a sort of latter-day Plague.)
4. Is a global response to a big epidemic possible? Or is that just a theoretical best case scenario?
5. What about costs for affected people? Is it the usual choice between death and bankruptcy? Or should they be dead and bankrupt?
6. Should people be held accountable for suffering from a highly infectious disease?
7. Why shouldn’t they get free treatment?
I find it very hard to believe that this hideously maladministered health sector is capable of even understanding the basics. The sector hasn’t responded at all to any other major problems, so why would it be able to deal with coronavirus, or a more virulent strain of it?
In a sane world, public health would be the most critical, most efficiently administered part of social administration. In this world, it’s the most inept, despicably managed, repulsively greedy, even including education for a comparison.
There’s only one more question, but it’s a fairly big one:
How long will it take for properly resourced global health administration to be put in place?
Even the idea of this venal, corrupt health sector being able to manage anything is laughable. Coronavirus can prove it. Do what you’re paid for, imbeciles, and do it now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about coronavirus epdiemic 2020, health systems vs epidemics, global health sector response to pandemics, China coronavirus response
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