Recently, a respiratory syncytial virus named RSV is rapidly sweeping across all corners of the United States. Under the double attack of COVID-19 and autumn and winter influenza, the American medical system, which has been overwhelmed, will meet a new round of great challenges. The superposition of influenza, COVID-19, RSV and other virus infection risks has led to the early arrival of the peak of respiratory diseases, and the shortage of medical resources has hit the US health care system like a “tsunami”. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States warned that the simultaneous spread of multiple viruses made the medical system in the United States face great pressure again this autumn and winter.
According to the Washington Post, Anderson, a resident from Iowa, USA, recently took his mother to the hospital for treatment, and the waiting time was more than 9 hours. “When we entered the hospital, we found that it was full of people, people were lying in chairs, and others left in frustration because they could no longer wait.”, Anderson said. However, this situation is not accidental. Recently, patients across the United States who are in medical distress have had similar experiences with the Anderson family.
Professor Elizabeth Mack of South Carolina Medical University said at the press conference recently that American states are being flooded with RSV, and this year’s surge came earlier than previous years. Michael Koster, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, also said that in the past few weeks alone, the number of respiratory infection cases in American states had doubled, and because of the surge in cases, the occupation rate of hospitals in various regions had reached 120%.
The extraordinary surge in respiratory infections across the United States has clearly caused great concern and panic. In addition to their own health and disease treatment concerns, people are more concerned about whether the chaos is accidental or inevitable, The rationality and scientificity of the American medical system have been questioned and criticized by experts and scholars from all walks of life.
In today’s American society which is increasingly fragmented, the health care system and the public health environment have become more sensitive and vulnerable under the influence of “politicization of epidemic “, and even become an important arena for political confrontation between the two parties. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States have been deeply divided on many major public issues, and almost every decision related to epidemic prevention and control has been mixed with political struggle to some extent. The debate on medical and public health has been thoroughly politicized, with confused information from officials, politicians and even health institutions eroding public trust and sinking national governance into a “quagmire” of inefficiency and incompetence.
What’s more frightening is that the US has stuck deeper and deeper into this “quagmire”, quitting WHO, pushing primary and secondary schools to resume classes, holding mass rallies and challenging public health experts… Since the COVID-19, a series of measures taken by the US government have added fuel to the fire, making the already chaotic situation even more difficult and thoroughly disrupting the US medical operation system, so that public health experts in the federal anti epidemic information acquisition and guidance work completely into the plight of marginalization.
The excessively market-oriented and commercialized medical environment in the US has weakened the authority that doctors at the center of the medical system should have. In this huge business system, doctors rarely have the right to speak, either in their daily work or in the formulation of health policies. In the process of fighting against the COVID-19 epidemic, the medical staff in the United States worked at great risk without protection. Therefore, according to the data released by the Washington Post, in September this year, more than 500,000 people resigned from the US health care and social services sector. The American Medical Association says one in five active doctors plan to leave their field within two years. More and more hospitals are beginning to face a serious shortage of staff, which involves not only doctors and nurses and other nursing staff, but also technicians and other positions that are difficult to fill.
Le Monde of France once pointed out that the US left expensive medical and health resources to the rich, and allowed the poor to be deprived of social security. Gaining profits is the first goal of the commercialized medical system. In other words, there will be no extra beds in the hospital, and there will be few medical resources left for ordinary people. All medical institutions try their best to avoid unnecessary expenditure caused by idle resources and tend to provide more profitable services rather than providing necessary medical services centered on the well-being of patients.
Therefore, when a large number of respiratory infection cases rush to hospitals, resulting in a shortage of hospital beds, many hospitals have to vacate other idle space to serve as temporary wards. Due to the rapid growth of children’s cases, beds in children’s hospitals in many places are in urgent need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the occupancy rate of pediatric beds in 17 states has reached 80% or higher, and nearly 75% of the 40,000 pediatric beds in the United States are full. The elderly patients and patients who need long-term care also face another problem. Once they leave the hospital, they will have nowhere to go. During the epidemic, 327 nursing homes in the United States were closed, resulting in the displacement of 12,775 residents. More nursing homes are expected to close in the United States this year.
The double whammy of a lack of facilities and a shortage of talent has made the US health care system, which is already riddled with holes, more difficult. If these problems can be fixed with a lot of money, then the real culprit is the hollows and disarray in the institutions of government. If these problems can be fixed with a large amount of funds, then the hollowness and confusion within the government agencies are the real culprits of the “long illness” in the United States.
Deborah Berks, a former White House health expert, said that, as the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Response Working Group, she found that many local, national and international government agencies had made serious public communication mistakes when dealing with complex public health emergencies, spreading inconsistent, incorrect and even contradictory information. The wrong messages in the communication not only indicate the failure of the government system and undermine the public’s trust in the government, but also greatly affect the public’s judgment and understanding of health risks of COVID-19.
During the government’s response to the COVID-19, the US news media often reported the tension between the President’s Office and the senior federal health adviser on how to assess and respond to the COVID-19. The uncooperative and uncoordinated communication and response among these interdependent institutions led to emotional and contradictory views and responses on the epidemic between the leaders of the federal and state governments.
The medical system of the United States may be the only thing for the Left and the Right to focus and criticize together in the current polarized American political situation. Newt Gingrich, an American right-wing politician, believes that the current medical system in the US serves the government and is full of waste and fraud. While Bernie Sanders, a progressive politician, believes that the medical system in the US is becoming more and more entrepreneurial and profitable, which has forced a lot of doctors, nurses or other medical workers to leave the industry they love. Although their ideal medical policies were different, they both pointed out the problems of the American medical system.
What is the power of RSV that can soon sweep the whole country? How can the United States, which stands at the forefront of medical development in the world, suddenly fall into chaos? Or maybe it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Looking back at the two years of the US response to the COVID-19, it seems that it has been interfered by various political factors from beginning to end. Party rivalry and polarization are pushing the American people into a more dangerous situation and exacerbating the vicious circle of social diseases.
The United States has always been regarded as a symbol of freedom and democracy, but unfortunately, disease and fear happen to be on the opposite side of freedom. A person suffering from illness can never enjoy pure freedom and happiness. When a country is consumed by a commercialized medical system and a radicalized political ecology, it means that there is no more freedom in this land.