As I am following information about the virus and how our healthcare system is handling it, I realized that we could be in deep trouble. If this virus was to take off affecting 2-3 times more people, we would not be able to take care of them. This got me thinking and doing some research. I have been listening to doctors on podcasts, blogs, and interviews talking about how woefully short we are on beds, hospitals, and supplies.
According to the CDC, in 1975 we had 5,875 community hospitals nationwide. IN 2015 that number had dropped to 4,862. This also means that in 1975 we had 941,844 hospital beds in those hospitals, but in 2015 we had 782,188. Today, according to the American Hospital Association, we have 792,417 beds total with 107276 for all types of Intensive care units.
That sounds like a lot of hospitals and beds until you look at the total population. According to the US Census Bureau, the population was approximately 215 million people. The table showed just over 203 million in 1970 and 226.5 million in 1980 so I estimated the 1975 total from those numbers. In 2019, according to the Census Bureau, our population was 328,239,523. That is an increase of around 50% since 1975. So though our population increased by approximately 50% over the last 45 years, we have lost 1013 hospitals and 159 thousand beds. Don’t forget we are living longer too.
In our day to day world before the virus, we didn’t have a problem because we are able to use treatments that are efficient and long hospital stays are not necessary.  However, in the middle of a pandemic like Covid-19, we are really short on everything. Why is this a problem, you say?
I look at from a supply and demand perspective. We need to keep the demand very low because of a low supply of facilities, and professionals to care for them. The high of healthcare stems from this supply and demand. The easy answer is to build more hospitals, but that would be very expensive. There is an easier way and we are starting to see it now during our quarantine.
Telemedicine is becoming very popular and people like the idea of not having to go to the doctor’s office. It saves the doctor money on the need for space and staff. It saves the patient time and hopefully money if ti trickles down. There is one catch! We, the patients, will have become more aware of our body, willing to tell the doctor what we see happening to our body, and truthfully how we feel. Since the doctor cannot touch you and see you close to spot possible problems, it will be up to the patient to inform them.
This brings me to the point I have been making to people fro over 15 years. We, as patients, have to become a part of the diagnosis and treatment plan from now on. The old idea of running to a doctor, laying on a table, making the doctor find what is wrong without sharing any symptoms, and going home and changing nothing about our lives is over.
We will need to be aware of our foods, lifestyle choices, and have a better understanding of what is good or bad when looking at our bodies. It is not talked about much, but we have another pandemic that has been going on for years. It is called obesity. It is not all your fault if you are obese, however, understand that we need to be more aware of where our food comes from, how it is grown, and in the case of meat, what drugs have been injected into it. This is important because whatever goes into that meat you are eating, is going into you. that goes for dairy products too. I know it is not easy but obesity is the driver behind 99% of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and even cancer.
The best part is, we don’t need to wait for the government to make the changes. Companies are supplying these goods only because we are buying them. If we change what we buy, demand better foods, and stop buying the foods that are making us sick, the companies will oblige us by supplying exactly what we want. Gen Z is already having that effect on restaurant chains as the restaurants are working to figure out what they want. They have affected their bottom line. We don’t need the government to handle this, we have that power to do this together.
Lifestyle changes can happen the same way. The companies and government are here to serve us. When we buy, they profit. The companies don’t really care what they sell and how it affects us, they care about profit. Look at what less driving has done to the insurance companies, oil companies, and even the environment in less than 2 months. When we change so will they and that includes the government.
This isn’t about anti corporations, government, or our healthcare system. This is to let you know that everything that feels hopeless and helpless, is really in the decisions you make. You are correct, if only I do it, not much will happen, but if we all join together and millions of us do it, we are still more powerful than any entity in the US.0891