Racism in Healthcare Access

On Tuesday I did my best to cut off the tip of my index finger. Fortunately, I wasn’t completely successful. I went back to my car in search of bandages, but the best I could do was a McDonald’s napkin and some packing tape. Still, I made a pretty commendable bandage that was water tight. I went back to work on the task at hand, but within the few minutes it took me to finish the job I was on it was clear that the bleeding wasn’t being controlled. I was in Milwaukee’s Hispanic hood on the near south side and wasn’t really sure where an urgent care was located – and I wanted to go to an urgent care because our emergency room co-pay is four time our urgent care co-pay. I called my wife at work so she could locate an urgent care on her computer. I was surprised to learn there weren’t any.

It was probably just as well that I went to the E.D., because it took over two hours to control my bleeding. An urgent care would likely have sent me to the hospital anyway. In my five plus hours in the E.D. I started thinking about whether or not I had ever seen an urgent care clinic in the hood on the north side. I never have seen an urgent care in any urban neighborhood in Milwaukee.

The truth is that I have heard criticism from fire fighters, nurses, physicians, hospital administrators, and politicians about lower income people using the E.D. as if it was an urgent care. The result is higher healthcare costs and less efficient care. In Milwaukee at least, there aren’t urgent care centers available to city residents, so if we are going to blame someone for increased costs we can’t point to the consumer.

If a hospital system wants to make money by serving the suburban communities in metropolitan areas, I believe they should be required to open urban urgent care centers. Particularly in segregated communities like Milwaukee County, whether the direct cause of inequity is greed or overt racism matters little because the results are racist and classist.

Of course, there will be those who will cry socialism because crying socialism has become commonplace among the greedy and the ignorant. The small minded have always done whatever they could to disparage those concerned with the welfare of every human being, and they probably always will. We cannot allow them to stand in the way of creating a truly just society.

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