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OPINION: In healthcare, both prevention and cure are necessary

Long Island College Hospital.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In a recent presentation on one of the plans to revamp Long Island College Hospital, a speaker, who shall be nameless for the time being, told audience members at a local community meeting that his group had no plans to offer a full-service hospital. This particular plan is offered by a partnership between a real estate organization and another healthcare institution.

Evidently unaffected by booing from the audience, he then made a statement implying that most full-service hospitals are part of a health care model that’s on the way out anyway. Most people hate to stay overnight in a hospital if they can help it, he declared. Instead of relying on the hospital, he said, people should concentrate on preventive measures such as diet, exercise, proper sleep and so on.

Is this valid? Well, let’s draw an analogy with the automobile. The car, most people agree, is a fine invention and one that is an absolute necessity in many parts of the country (most of Brooklyn excluded). Everyone agrees on the need for safe driving practices – keeping within the speed limit, signaling and slowing down before making a turn, slowing down at a crosswalk, slowing down when you see a pedestrian, etc. People also agree that it’s wrong to drive when you’re high on alcohol or drugs.

But let’s say that there’s an accident, either because of something that was the driver’s own fault or because of something sudden, such as a pedestrian suddenly running out between two cars. Then, the driver has to be taken to the emergency room. Will the ER nurse or doctor scold a driver whose arm is in a cast and who is suffering from pain, saying, “See what happens when you don’t slow down?” or “You’re bad! See what happens when you don’t look both ways before changing lanes?”

No, that doctor or nurse is going to try to treat the driver. Then, and only then, will they talk to the motorist about his reckless driving habits – perhaps with a little friendly persuasion from a police officer.

Taking the speaker’s argument to an extreme, you can even use it to justify a drastic reduction in the number of doctors. If someone comes to a doctor suffering from the common cold, the doctor might then say, “You haven’t been taking Vitamin C? You didn’t take your flu shot? What’s wrong with you? The information’s out there—all you have to do is look it up on the internet!”

Let’s get back to hospitals in particular. Of course people should be encouraged to exercise, eat healthy foods, take vitamins and get the right amount of sleep. The speaker was right about that.

But even if people do all these things, health problems may still occur. Some of these, like a stroke or a heart attack, may be serious enough to put someone in the hospital.

No matter how healthy people are, there will always be a need for hospitals – just like no matter how well people drive, there will always be some accidents. And that’s where the speaker went wrong. An ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure, but don’t forget that the cure still has to be there when people need it.

March 25, 2014 - 10:00am


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