Swine flu the test of health care systems

When there's a rush to the rail of sickness, will the poor be turned away and allowed to infect everyone else? No one is yet asking that question, but the answers will come in time. And not much time, either.

The A1N1 swine flu may be the best test possible of what health system works best.

The lab conditions are perfect. The only variable is the method by which health system is paid for and delivered. And we all get to be lab rats.

England, which has had a single-payer system since the early years of the Cold War, is already being hit hard, with an estimated 100,000 new cases in the last week. (Picture from Perez Hilton, who makes any political blogger, left or right, seem like a Rhodes Scholar.)

The solution? A pandemic flu service through which anyone who suspects the may have this flu can quickly access advice and care. The aim is to quickly diagnose cases, initiate treatment, and minimize deaths at the lowest possible cost.

The program includes a way in which "flu friends" can pick up your medicine and deliver it to you through your mail slot, minimizing the chance they will get infected.

This is important because the World Health Organization, which is coordinating the production and distribution of vaccines, is very fearful that the current strain may mix with other strains to create a super-but that is resistant to current anti-virals.

Meanwhile, American bloggers are crowing that a vaccine may be available in October, not asking how much will be available and who should get theirs first. Critics accuse the Administration of over-reacting. Never mind that this may be the fastest-moving pandemic ever and may leave us like England by football season.

About all our government can do is pre-pay for some vaccines, offer some aid for hospitals about to be overwhelmed, and warn everyone else.

Will our system hold up? When there's a rush to the rail of sickness, will the poor be turned away and allowed to infect everyone else?

No one is yet asking that question, but the answers will come in time. And not much time, either.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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