During a recent visit to the USA, I had the misfortune of experiencing the American health service. During a wind tunnel experience, my partner, Craig, dislocated his shoulder. When we were advised by the instructors in the centre that ‘help was on its way’, it was only natural for us to think that an ambulance with paramedics were en route. Well, I think you can only imagine the confusion that we experienced when four firemen began to approach us.
This was only the beginning of our long journey through the American health service.
Immediately, the firemen advised us that Craig’s shoulder was dislocated, but could they help us? No. They did a quick, half-hearted attempt at putting his arm into a sling and gave us some worthy advice: ‘Don’t get an ambulance; you won’t be able to afford it.’
These words will stay with me forever. As a woman who comes from a country where health treatment is seen as a basic human right, not a luxury, I could not quite understand how one of the wealthiest countries in the world can have such an unequal system.
Nevertheless, even though Craig was screaming in pain and desperately needing urgent medical attention, we had to take the advice of the firemen. But, this wasn’t the only part of the journey that shocked me. No, it got worse.
As we entered the first hospital we were advised to visit, I was stunned by the business-like presentation of the waiting area and reception. I felt as though I had just entered the reception of a top law firm in Edinburgh. That first impression should have been a sign to us: do not enter unless you can pay.
I explained to the receptionist the situation that we found ourselves in, I showed her our insurance documents, but instantly she refused to accept them and said that unless we could afford to pay they were unable to offer treatment.
In the space of a five minute period, Craig was denied medical attention on two separate occasions. If this had happened in Scotland, he would have probably been in an A&E department by that point.
Thankfully, the next hospital that we visited accepted our insurance and carried out the necessary treatment. After a few hours and a few thousand pounds later, we left the hospital and had never appreciated our national health service so much.
That, my friends, is exactly why I fear TTIP.
As proposed, TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) could potentially allow the privatisation of our NHS through the back door. It could ban state monopolies, including in our public services, and it could also allow big, multinational companies to take legal action against our government if it is perceived that the government is, by policies they introduce, affecting business profits.
Having experienced first-hand what a private health service means and the serious problems it poses, I think that my concerns and fears of TTIP are completely legitimate.
The TTIP negotiations have been conducted in complete secrecy and with an utter lack transparency. Even more so, our Scottish Government, which runs many of our public services, has had absolutely no formal role in the TTIP negotiations.