foot had been sore for a couple of weeks and it wasn't getting
better. I usually would ignore that, but we were about to
leave on a two-week vacation with my wife Joy's parents
to celebrate both of our big anniversaries (their 50th and
our 10th). Then I have to fly to $ingapore for the World
Vision triennial conference. So I wouldn't be back home
for many weeks and my Washington, D.C., health care provider
(over the phone) strongly urged me to see a doctor in London
before we left.
then that I was about to have my first encounter with SOCIALIZED
Now it's one thing to advocate health care reform in America
and even to be politically sympathetic to the idea of a
single-payer government-supported system like they have
in most of the world's developed and civilized countries
(such as Canada, Germany, and Great Britain). But it was
another thing to actually go to the emergency room (or ER,
but in the U.K. they call it Accident and Emergency) of
a hospital in the British National Health Service.
After all, I had heard the horror stories - long waits in
incompetent, dirty, and substandard medical facilities;
bad doctors and faulty diagnoses; and, of course, incredible
bureaucracies like everything in "socialist systems." Rush
Limbaugh and every other conservative pundit have warned
us all in America about the horrific practices of British
I prepared myself. I brought a big novel to read, along
with my eyeglasses, a bottle of water (no telling what they
would not have in socialized medicine), and emotionally
steeled myself for the ordeal. Ann Stevens, the Anglican
vicar with whom we stay in London (she's my son Luke's godmother
and Joy's old pal) took me to St. George's hospital, dropped
me off at "A and E," and wished me luck at 9 am. Hoping
I would be home that night for dinner, I took a deep breath,
walked across the street, and made my way into socialized
waiting room was actually quite peaceful and not crowded,
I noticed, as I walked up to reception. The woman at the
reception desk smiled. I didn't expect that. "Can I help
you?" "Yes," I replied, "you see, I am an American - I guess
you can tell - and I'm visiting family here - my wife is
British - and we're staying with our friend the vicar, and
I have a sore foot, which I normally wouldn't worry about
but we're going away for several weeks on vacation, and
I called my health care provider in the U.S., and they told
me to come in here and thought I should get an X-ray or
something." (I wondered for a moment if it would help to
tell them that I was a friend of the prime minister, but
decided not.) "What do you need from me?" I asked hesitantly.
"Just your name and address," she replied with another smile.
"Oh... Okay." She told me it would be about 10 minutes to
see the nurse. "Yeah right," I thought to myself.
into the waiting room chair, looked around at all the people
who didn't seem to be in any distress, and opened my book
for a good long read. It was five minutes before the nurse
called me in to a little office adjacent to the waiting
area, which seemed to be an intake room. She was pleasant
and professional as she asked me what was wrong, and how
long I had felt the soreness. She gently examined my foot
and then told me I would be called in to see a doctor in
about 10 minutes. "Sure thing," I thought. So I went back
out to the waiting room and settled in again to read my
was five minutes before a young woman appeared and called
my name, "Mr. Wallis?" She was a young Asian doctor named
Dr. Gillian Kyei. She was also very pleasant and professional,
taking time to ask me lots of questions about how I might
have hurt my foot, etc. She examined the injured foot carefully,
told me that it didn't necessarily look broken, but that
we should get an X-ray to make sure. I waited in her examining
room for a couple of minutes while she called down to the
X-ray department to say that I was on the way. Then she
came back and escorted me herself.
all, I had heard
the horror stories -
long waits in incompetent,
dirty, and substandard
medical facilities; bad doctors
and faulty diagnoses;
and, of course, incredible
bureaucracies like everything
in "socialist systems."
Rush Limbaugh and every
other conservative pundit
have warned us all in America
about the horrific practices
of British socialized medicine.
I got to X-ray, I checked in by just saying my name and
took a seat in the waiting area. Finally, I was going to
get to read my book! But five minutes later, the technician
came out to bring me in. She took her time with me, taking
several different angles of my foot. When I was done, she
sent me back to my young doctor, with another smile.
time the wait was a full 10 minutes because, I later learned,
Dr. Kyei was reading the results of my X-ray, which had
already been sent to her computer. She showed me what looked
to her like a fracture of my fourth metatarsal bone, but
said she wanted to consult with the orthopedic specialist.
I waited about 10 minutes more while she did that and so
got a few more pages read.
Kyei then came back with the definitive diagnosis - my fourth
metatarsal bone was indeed fractured. She went over their
preferred treatments and my options with me. Normally, if
this injury had just happened, they would put me in a cast
to hold the broken bone in place and give me crutches. They
were still happy to do that now. But since I had been already
walking on it for over a week and the bone was still in
the right place, I could also have the option to just using
a therapeutic soft boot to keep the weight on my heel and
off my fourth and fifth metatarsals.
While the fracture was at the base of the fourth metatarsal,
as she carefully explained and showed me on the X-ray, the
pain was being felt lower down-across both my fourth and
fifth metatarsal area. If I chose the boot, I could still
swim with my kids and get around a little easier, but I
would have to really try to keep my weight off the injured
area. I chose the boot and she told me she would be back
in a minute.
was actually about two minutes before she got back, and
I was getting nowhere with this novel. She handed me a very
stylish black boot (so much better than other colors for
fashion coordination), and gave me my final instructions
- be very cautious about the foot, try to stay off it as
much as possible but keep it mobile and flex it so the blood
circulates, get another X-ray as soon as I get home and,
of course, then consult with my home physician.
Then she wrote me a nice long letter for my home doctor,
describing their diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Gillian Kyei
then wished me the best of luck, hoped I would have a great
vacation despite my foot, smiled, and sent me back to the
can I call a cab?" I asked. "Oh, I'll do that for you,"
she said. "Just take a seat over their and the cab will
be here in about 10 minutes." As I sat there, I realized
something. Nobody had ever asked me to pay. Everything was
FREE, including my nice new boot. How about that? They think
health care is a right for all citizens, and even foreign
visitors like me. Amazing.
cab came in five minutes. I thought I would tell him some
horror stories about my experiences in the American health
care system, but decided not to. I was back at Ann's in
just over an hour from when I left - with my letter, my
boot, and my tale of smiling, pleasant, and efficient health
And somehow I began to believe that back in America we weren't
being given the whole truth. And guess what? Ann tells me
that David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, the biggest British
soccer (football) stars, have had metatarsal bone fractures,
just like mine. In about six weeks, I too will be back on
the field, thanks to socialized medicine! And, in the meantime,
I will keep my foot up... and maybe get that novel read.
Kuan Yew's Adventure With England's Social Welfare Hospitals
Just to get a perspective, here's a previous report,
dated November 3, 2003, published by $ingapore's nation-builder
press. $ingapore's health care system is privatised.
November 3, 2003
ran high on a balmy Sunday night as the normally stoic Senior
Minister Lee Kuan Yew nearly broke down while recounting
the ordeal his wife went through in London recently.
troubles that the couple faced - including joining a queue
in a free hospital - when Mrs Lee was hit by stroke two
Sundays ago, revealed how differently two systems worked.
cannot tell you how restless and unhappy we felt," he said
at a community event in Jalan Bukit Merah yesterday.
run a (healthcare) system where you have to co-pay ... but
you get the attention. There, no attention, just join the
queue," he said grimly.
first sign of trouble was that there was no private hospital
with CT scan facility at night in London, he told residents
and community leaders.
Mrs Lee had to go to the NHS hospital nearest to the Four
Seasons Hotel where they were staying - a free facility
called the Royal London Hospital - and join the queue.
waited 45 minutes for the ambulance for a 10-minute drive,"
said Mr Lee in his first public appearance since the couple
returned on Friday.
Singapore, within half-an-hour, you would be in SGH (Singapore
General Hospital), TTSH (Tan Tock Seng Hospital) ... and
within one-and-a-half to two hours flat, you'd know what
Mrs Lee reached The Royal London Hospital at 12.30am, it
happened to have three cardiac arrest patients.
Lee was told his wife's brain problem was "not as important"
as the cardiac arrest cases, he recounted solemnly. She
would have had to wait till 8am the next morning for her
CT brain scan if 10 Downing Street had not intervened to
get her early attention. High Commissioner Michael Teo had
sought help from 10 Downing Street at 2am on Sunday and
she received treatment at 3.30am on the night itself.
upon a time, it was a wonderful hospital. But after 40 plus
years ... the system cannot deliver. There's no connection
between those in the system and the patients," he said.
it's the way free healthcare systems work, he added, noting
that Singapore must not go down that path, even though there
are calls for free C class wards in public hospitals here.
Click here for the rest
of the article.