Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In VA, care must wait until it's too late

Suppose when you awoke this morning you weren't feeling well. You've been dragging for some weeks now, but this morning you have a coughing jag; blood comes up.

Worried that something is terribly wrong, maybe lung cancer, you scold yourself for not heeding the surgeon general's warning as you toss a pack of cigarettes in the trash and reach for the phone. Maybe you can catch this in time.

You call the health clinic. They ask some questions. How long have you felt this poorly? Is this the first sign of blood? Any family members to make you soup?

Then, incredibly, the clinic tells you, sorry we can't help you unless you are in imminent danger of dying today. Call us back when you can no longer breathe.

Of course this won't really happen if your illness is physical. But mental illness is a different story, especially in Virginia and especially for those who lack insurance or have run out of coverage.

Virginia operates in crisis mode. Unless you are in "imminent" danger of harming yourself or someone else, take a number.

More from this Roanoke Times editorial ...