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'I'd gladly trade the shine and gloss for the NHS system of offering treatment to all'

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Gary’s elective placement in Florida has given him a new outlook on the pros and cons of the American healthcare system

I’m writing this blog from Jacksonville, Florida, where I’m on my elective placement.

It’s a mixed town with areas of great wealth and huge poverty, with mental health problems evident on many street corners. But it is also home to some of Florida’s best medical care such the UF Proton Centre and Nemours Cancer Hospital.

The facilities here are second to none, clean, advanced and staffed with friendly, extremely knowledgeable specialists. I can’t help but compare the treatment of patients here to that of patients back in the UK under the NHS. Yes the facilities are very nice here, whereas some can, to be honest, look worn out back home and in need of a lick of paint.

“I would gladly trade off the shine and gloss for our system of treating all”

However, I would gladly trade off the shine and gloss for our system of treating all, no matter what you have or don’t have.

I asked a doctor what a patient (including a child) could expect if they or their family had no insurance. The answer? High bills, the possibility of losing your house to pay for those bills and not even the highest level of care available – but more standard treatments, if they’re lucky.

What has surprised me is that most of the doctors I have spoken to are actually in support of Obama Care, a basic level of cover for all regardless of wealth similar to the NHS and funded by the taxpayer. Mainly this is being deconstructed under the new regime as, while most hospitals are not-for-profit, unfortunately big bucks can be made by pharmaceutical companies and corporations by maintaining the status quo.

“There are many charitable organisations trying to help the less fortunate”

Fortunately, there are many charitable organisations trying to help the less fortunate, and where they can many doctors do the same. Corporations such as McDonalds provide accommodation complexes for those out of towners needing somewhere low cost, but comfortable and safe to stay.

Anyway, back to the treatment of patients, especially children. The facilities are very non-threatening and areas made for children are bright and fun with activities provided to keep them entertained all day from musicians and artists to craft tables and scientists. They have life specialists here who interact with the child from the moment they enter the hospital, befriend the child, and simulate all procedures so that nothing is unexpected or scary.

“It was amazing to see a child so comfortable in hospital surroundings”

I saw a young girl run into the therapy room today, without her parents, she was about four years old and went straight to the radiographer, gave her a big hug and started chattering away like it was a long lost friend – amazing to see a child so comfortable in hospital surroundings.

The life specialists have done amazing work by engaging with the children to reduce the routine age for the use of anaesthesia for proton therapy from seven to five and the overall use of anaesthesia from 94% to 54% meaning more kids can be up and out straight after their treatment rather than having to spend time in recovery.

The alumni programme also allows previous patients (young and old) to remain in contact, come for lunch and share their experiences with new patients on a weekly basis.

But not all kids will make it, the therapy isn’t a miracle cure and for some the therapy just can’t fix the illness. In these cases the social workers work closely with the family, very much like our bereavement nurses and the whole team stay in contact with the family for years after the patient passes away with a card handwritten and signed by each member of staff from nurse to radiographer within the patient’s birth month.

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