In an aside to my aside, the entrance shown above leads to the headquarters of the rector, the head of the University of Granada. The current Rectora de la Universidad de Granada, founded in 1531, is Dra Pilar Aranda Ramírez. She is a professor in the physiology department of the School of Pharmacology and also holds degrees in biology and nutrition.
This very door used to be the entrance to El Hospital Real, the royal hospital. After the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Majesties Queen Isabel I of Castile and King Fernando II of Aragon in 1492, which signaled the end of Al-Andalus, the 700-year Islamic rule over the Iberian peninsula, Granada experienced an extensive building boom under a ‘public equipment program’ ordered by the Crown. The royal hospital was one of these public works. The Majesties felt that the state was obliged to provide free medical care for their poor, insane and innocent subjects. The construction of the hospital began in 1511. It was specifically designed to dispense the most advanced care possible.
To reiterate, these absolute monarchs at the very beginning of the 16th century acted upon their belief that universal health care is a human right. Imagine that!
Fast forward to the year 2016. We spent the week before Easter in Granada, a week called La Semana Santa, The Holy Week, a serious religious and festive time in this very Catholic region of Europe. By Thursday, I experienced some unpleasant symptoms, which 24 hours later made it imperative to get medical care ¡ahora! We called our friend Hernán for advice and he suggested to go to the emergency department of the Hospital Universitario San Cecilio. After a short cab ride, we arrived at the emergency entrance trying to get oriented. Hernán was on his way to help, but after we noticed how crowded the waiting room was, we decided not to wait for him. I joined the single queue for patient intake. There were three administrators serving the line, so I was processed within just a few minutes. Our universal health care system at home in Saintes, France, provides its members with an ID card specifically designed for use outside of France, in the other European Union countries. With this ID and my passport, I became a registered hospital patient and was issued a wristband and two sticky labels, one for myself identifying me as the patient, the other one for my support person.
I hadn’t even quite entered the waiting room when I heard my name announced over the intercom. Another patient made it clear that I now had to go to the lab area along a different hallway, which I did. The unsmiling technician handed me a lidded cup accompanied by a long slew of instructions. Castillian Spanish sounds vastly different from the Tico Spanish to which I’m accustomed. Though I could guess what she wanted me to do, I had no idea where. She impatiently dragged me back to the waiting area and pointed out the single cubicle public bathroom. Really? Well, so be it. I waited in line and finally produced my sample. I had no clue what I was supposed to do with it, so I just sat down in the waiting area, hoping they would call my name again or that Hernán would pop in. Neither happened. My acompañante and I agreed at this point that I should go back to the tech lady. While she was dealing with another patient, I impatiently loitered in the hallway in front of her office. As soon as she was free I barged in holding my specimen cup out to her. She was chiding me for not having wrapped the cup with a paper towel, then sighed in resignation. She realized that I was a helpless abuela in a foreign environment and took pity on me. Motioning me to follow her, she led me to the office of a Dra Liu, who examined me and my specimen and prescribed the necessary antibiotics for me. At this point, Hernán came to my rescue to explain the prescription and a few other points the doctora mentioned.
Then it was time to check out. Doctora Liu had given me a print-out of my case file and Hernán showed it to the administrator in the front window, who just waved it off. As a foreigner in an American hospital, I would have been presented with a hefty bill at this point – unless they would’ve refused to treat me in the first place! The European joint health services, however, thoroughly computerized, were already electronically talking to each other. The Spanish system simply requesting payment from my French system. No actual cash from the patient required. I did have to pay about $8 for the antibiotics at a Pharmacy on night duty that Hernán found with his cell phone. But I’ll get reimbursed for that when we’re back home.
Cash-free emergency treatment in under 45 minutes at 9 PM on Good Friday, a legal holiday, covered by universal health care. Your human right at work!
Throughout the European Union, Social Security administrations communicate with each other in an effort to allow taxes paid in one country to be applied to services in another. Because the US does not participate in any reciprocal behavior with friendly nations in such a manner, we have to pay a monthly fee to be part of the French/European health services. In addition to our mandatory medicare charges in the US, of course. Owing to this separatist stance of the US government, we and other people wishing to live abroad have to pay double for services we may never actually claim.
Will it be costly to have medical care for every US citizen? Yes, it will be costly. Will we have to spend a good chunk of our taxes on universal medical care? Yes, we will have to do that. Will the US go broke over universal health care? No, it will not go bankrupt over universal health care.
All we have to do is stop going to war in regions of this world where nobody ever waged war with any lasting positive effects. Not ever. Through all of recorded history.
Curb warmongering – Care for humanity instead