Some problems become so complicated that the smartest people on earth seem incapable of solving them. The Middle East crisis is an example. The health care debacle in the United States, unfortunately, is another. It’s truly irritating, however, when portions of such problems seem easy to resolve, but solutions remain evasive.
Take a look at the front-page article this week by Christina Olenchek to see what we are talking about. It involves the latest fiasco with health care. The problem isn’t the high cost of drugs, which has been written about extensively. The problem is short supply of drugs and the danger that the issue is creating for patients.
Gregory George, director of pharmacy at Holy Spirit Hospital, explained the situation this way: “Every day, we work on supply issues.”
Most infuriating is that the problems are with commonly used drugs, such as steroids, diuretics and painkillers. Hospitals have been scrambling to locate such drugs, doing everything from finding new suppliers to looking for similar drugs that might only be different because of their dosage. The dangers of creating patchwork medicines are clear.
“It sets up people for making errors,” said David Weaver, York Hospital’s pharmacy manager of operations. “It’s a change in the process for them, and it’s frustrating for them.”
In her article, Olenchek identified some reasons for the shortages: companies have problems making some drugs, hospitals keep expenses down by cutting inventories, and, get this, some drugs aren’t profitable, so production has been cut. Please, say it isn’t so.
We don’t pretend to be smart enough to solve the health care crisis. We don’t even pretend to think we have all the answers to this latest concern. But we do know one thing: the people in the health care industry can resolve this issue. The government, the for-profit drug companies, and health care workers who have taken the Hippocratic oath must work together.
Find a way to make more drugs, and get them distributed to the people who need them. It really doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.