Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Think Cuts in Government Spending Don’t Endanger Health and Welfare – Washington State’s Experience with Whooping Cough Says Otherwise

Another Fact for Conservatives to Ignore - Because It Doesn't Fit Their View of the World

In the political world that Conservatives live in and want everyone else to live in government spending has no value whatsoever.  Taxes are evil and the government services they support do no good, and in fact do a lot of harm by making citizens dependent upon government rather than going out and working and doing things for themselves. 

From Washington state comes the news that a childhood disease, long thought to be under control is now back harming children, and in large part it is because of cuts in funding for public health services.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, a highly infectious respiratory disease once considered doomed by science, has struck Washington State this spring with a severity that health officials say could surpass the toll of any year since the 1940s, before a vaccine went into wide use.

How bad is it?  Well no one has died, yet.

Although no deaths have been reported so far this year, the state has declared an epidemic and public health officials say the numbers are staggering: 1,284 cases through early May, the most in at least three decades and 10 times last year’s total at this time, 128.

Could this have been prevented.  It seems so, because state public health services have been cut which has lead to the increase in the incidence of the disease.

Here in Skagit County, about an hour’s drive north of Seattle — the hardest-hit corner of the state, based on pertussis cases per capita — the local Public Health Department has half the staff it did in 2008. Preventive care programs, intended to keep people healthy, are mostly gone.

And of course the policy of cutting preventive services in the area of public health is not only cruel, not only inflicts health hardships on the people but is also economically inept.

The county’s top medical officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, who is also a full-time emergency room physician, said that in the crushing triage of a combined health crisis and budget crisis, he had gone so far as to urge local physicians to stop testing patients to confirm a whooping cough diagnosis.

If the signs are there, he said — especially a persistent, deep cough and indication of contact with a confirmed victim — doctors should simply treat patients with antibiotics. The pertussis test can cost up to $400 and delay treatment by days. About 14.6 percent of Skagit County residents have no health insuranceaccording to a state study conducted last year, up from 11.6 percent in 2008.

“There has been half a million dollars spent on testing in this county,” Dr. Leibrand said late last week. “Do you know how much vaccination you can buy for half a million dollars?” And testing, he added, benefits only the epidemiologists, not the patients. “It’s an outrageous way to spend your health care dollar.”

Public spending, or lack of it is not the only cause.  Parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for reasons long since discredited is part of the problem.  Some of those parents are acting out of legitimate concern, but some are people who take the position that no government is going to tell them what to do, even if it does mean exposing their children and the community to severe health risks.

But don’t tell Conservatives any of this, because even if you do, they are not listing.  In their world taxes and spending and making people get vaccinations is what harms people’s health, not diseases.

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