The Southern Humboldt Health Care District wants to know what I think of their plans for our local hospital. They sent me a survey to fill out, and when I didn’t respond they sent another, reminding me that I had not responded to their previous inquiry. I haven’t responded to that one either. I suspect they want to know how I voted in the last election, and how I’m inclined to vote in this one, so they can decide whether to cut me out of the district or not. Last year Blocksburg voters voted more than 2 to 1 against the hospital tax. This year, Blocksburg voters (and land owners) have been excised from the health care district, and the potential tax.

Personally, just thinking about health care feels like stepping into the Le Brea Tar Pits. I’d rather not think about it at all, until, God forbid, someday I get stuck in it, after which I expect to struggle futilely, until death becomes my only escape. I don’t want to think about health care; I want to know how to avoid the health care system entirely because I know I’m fucked if I ever need it.

That’s how it is for most people around here. We can’t afford health care, because the bills quickly become even more debilitating than the disease. Health care in America is a dark, sticky pit full of twisted logic, untenable compromises and vicious, heartless greed, dusted with a thin layer of boring-as-fuck. I can’t even pay attention to the subject of health care, let alone afford it, and I am disinclined to throw any more of my money into that pit. Apparently, a lot of people around here feel the same way, and with good reason, I think.

First, we should never forget that the health care system in the US was not designed to promote health, or even to treat disease. Our health care system was designed to make money. Our health care system has been so successful in this regard that it has blossomed into a central pillar of our economy. Unfortunately, the success of our health care system lies in its coercive ability to extract absurdly high fees from people, at the very moment when they are most vulnerable.

Because of this, our current health care system has become both a major source of wealth and a major source of poverty here in the United States. The system creates wealth for health care providers, hospital administrators, insurance companies and their shareholders, while it creates poverty for the unfortunate people who chose any other career path but find themselves in need of medical services.

As health care professional become more enriched by this system, they find that they tire quickly of the time they must spend with poor sick people, and they start looking for ways to insulate themselves from us. They often move to more affluent neighborhoods, where they can charge even more for their services. Eventually, that leads to the extreme situation that we face here in SoHum. We have a building that looks like a hospital, but the only doctor there probably just flew in for his shift at the ER, and he has no intention of providing services to anyone, except to offer directions to the nearest real hospital, in Fortuna, where our closest local doctors actually live.

We can’t even convince a hospital administrator to live here, no matter how much we pay them. When Harry Jasper worked here, he was probably the highest paid man in SoHum who didn’t carry a gun, but we had to pay him an extra $30,000 a year, as a housing allowance, so that his family could live in a nicer community, and his kids would not have to associate with ours. No wonder it didn’t last.

Without a doctor, a hospital is just an expensive building full of expensive equipment and overpaid people with nothing to do. Even with a doctor, that’s pretty much what we have here in Garberville, because most people who live here already know that all they will do for you in Garberville is send you to Fortuna, and stick you with a fat bill.

If you live in Garberville and you have a heart attack, there’s a chance they could save your life at Jerold Phelps Hospital, because they have a defibrillator and know how to use it. For almost anyone else, you might as well forget about our local hospital because all you are likely to get from them is a fat bill on your way to another fat bill, so the hospital offers very little value, as a health care provider, to the people here in SoHum.

On the other hand, the illusion of a hospital has an important role in propping up property values. Prospective real estate buyers notice signs pointing to a hospital, and the building itself. These features make many prospective buyers feel more secure about purchasing land in such a remote place. Few of them actually check to see if the hospital has a real doctor. Because of this, our mostly useless hospital mostly benefits real-estate agents looking to pad their commissions, and land owners looking to sell out. Fuck them!

The sooner our real estate bloodsuckers move on to greener pastures the better, and sell-out dope yuppies will take whatever they can get for their land now that the black market gravy train has left the station. For the rest of us, I think we should work on becoming the kind of community where a good doctor might want to live, because unless we can convince a good doctor to move here and open a practice, we might as well get used to driving to Fortuna to see one.

We aren’t going to attract a good doctor by waving our black market profits at them, even if we still had them to wave, and we aren’t going to get a good doctor by voting for a new tax. The only way we are going to get a good doctor in SoHum is by being better neighbors. If we can’t do that, we might as well save our money.


John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.