This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.
Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.
As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish – right here in the US. How did we get here?