And The Chicks Are Free

Coming from another country, as I did in 2002, it’s easy to discern certain factors that most Americans never stop to consider. They’re just too close to them – can’t see the wood for the trees, you might say.

I’ve had occasion to visit the local hospital recently. Nothing serious, you understand. My wife needed a minor procedure, and as one matures, general servicing has to become a little more frequent to keep everything running normally.

I was struck by the large number of elderly ladies acting as volunteers in the hospital. At first, it wasn’t something I questioned. The British NHS uses voluntary labor to assist with patient management. It helps keep the costs down.

Then it struck me. This is not an NHS hospital, it’s a private company. Admittedly, it designates itself a ‘not-for-profit’ concern, but according to figures gleaned from the internet (the only ones I could find), this particular company:

…..budgeted a total net profit of $7.4 million [in 2004], and expects to build its cash position beginning in fiscal 2005.”

Now that’s not bad for a private enterprise desperately attempting to make no profit.

The hospital has expanded enormously since 2004, opening ‘branches’ throughout the town and surrounding areas. No doubt, they would point this out as resulting from the $7.4 million, but it’s unlikely these branch clinics lose them money. Few companies in healthcare go bust from expansion.

So, while the army of elderly volunteers marching around the hospital corridors with bemused patients in tow, or registering family members waiting for news of their sick relatives welfare, are keeping themselves busy and possibly preventing the onset of senile dementia, they’re also responsible for swelling the queues of unemployed citizens waiting for benefits, or hanging round street corners all day with nothing to do.

Perhaps, these elderly volunteers should accept retirement gracefully, spend their time knitting socks for the grandkids, or assisting local charities, and force the hospital authorities to pay working people to fill those jobs that, to date, they’ve been getting done for nothing?

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