Archive for February 2006

A Pandemic Dilemma, or, You Thought Algebra Was Tough

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

OK, pop quiz, class. Take out your papers and pencils and write down this question.

You are in charge of a major hospital planning for a possible flu pandemic. You have X ventilators. You expect Y number of people to need ventilators, and Y > X. Let’s also say that it costs C dollars to purchase a ventilator, but your budget is only for B dollars. And now let’s say that things are even worse than predicted and Y > X + (B/C). How do you make sure than all Y people get the care they need?

Talk about an unsolvable problem. And not just because of the algebra.

This isn’t just a hypothetical problem, but rather a question that health care planners are grappling with nationwide. As this audio report from NPR illustrates, should the system become overwhelmed, our healthcare system will change dramatically, and moral dilemmas may happen that challenge the whole premise of medical care. Let’s say that the Terri Schiavo controversy played out during a flu pandemic and that not only was she in a permanent vegetative state, but was also on a ventilator, which would become a scarce commodity during a flu pandemic. Would you be as willing to give up the life of a loved one so that someone else might live?

I just hope that it never gets to that point. No one can fully foresee the future, and planners walk a tightrope. You definitely don’t want to put people in the position where they have to choose who lives and who dies.

OK, lecture over for now. Class dismissed.

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Friday, February 10th, 2006

When the weather makes front page news in Hawaii, it’s gotta be something way out of the ordinary, something way different from the normal “beautiful trade wind day.”

Well, the weather has been quite wonderful…during the day. At night and early morning, though, it’s another story. We’ve been waking up to weather that’s bone-chilling cold. By island standards, that is. Temperatures in some parts of Oahu failed to top 70 on Thursday and in some parts dropped to 60 or below. Add gusty winds, and very dry air with dewpoints well below 60 (normal is around 65), and…brrrr!!!

These days I’ve been sleeping with sweatshirt, sweatpants, and a heavy comforter over my blanket. And today I wore two full layers on top, a jacket over a long sleeved T-shirt. This is where you can really tell the locals from the tourists…you’ll see the tourist shirtless in a bathing suit, soaking up the warmth, while the local is bundled up in full winter gear, cursing the cold.

Not that I’ve lived such a sheltered life weatherwise. I’ve endured cold, rainy winters in Oregon while I was in college, which themselves would be nothing compared to the sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest. And my last vacation to Las Vegas a year ago saw me running in 30-40 degree weather with strong north winds. I know what “mainland” cold feels like.

It’s perfect weather for running now, but thanks to the cold, I ended up catching one. Ugh. Try having a mild fever at night in the cool weather we’ve been having. I found myself shaking…not just shivering, all out shaking…when I was in the bathroom, undressed and ready to take a warm shower to keep myself comfortable. Fortunately, I’m better now. But unfortunately, I haven’t really had a chance to take full advantage of the cooler conditions.

Temperatures are going to gradually warm up over the next few days, but I hope the cool weather comes back soon. Not that I intend to become a member of the Hawaii chapter of the Polar Bear Club…but still…

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There’s Hope for the Human Race Yet

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

Seems all we hear about these days is bad news. War in Iraq. Corruption in Congress. Politics in disarray. Sick people being thrown out on the street.

So it warms my heart to find that people are still good and kind at heart. Take this case of…well…a sick person who, if not for the generosity of strangers, would have been thrown out on the street.

The Star-Bulletin on Monday, as part of a story on a rent crackdown in public housing, highlighted the story of Josephine Wong, who until that day lived at Kuhio Park Terrace with her twelve-year-old daughter. Suffering from lupus and effectively disabled, Wong found herself over $5,000 in arrears…about two years behind. Her welfare check barely covered her medical bills and medicine. To have to choose between medicine and shelter…that’s a choice that no one should have to make.

Wong found herself on the receiving end of a tougher rent collection policy that eliminated the administrative appeals process for public-housing evictions. Rather than allow the appellant to stay through the process, the agency has the option to turn the person out while the appeal is in process. Given the backlog in public housing, such a move might be understandable, but it certainly doesn’t do much for the equally large homelessness problem. Needless to say, advocates for housing and the homeless are not happy about this.

In any case, still unable to make rent and unable to convince the powers-that-be to show more mercy, Wong would have been sleeping that night in Ala Moana Park, were it not for the generosity of broadcaster Network Media. The tourism-oriented broadcaster put Wong and her daughter up in one of their client hotels and offered assistance in finding a rental, payment of Wong’s rent for at least a year, and assistance in finding a job for Wong.

Now that’s the aloha spirit at work, folks. Taking care of each other like family. Kudos to Network Media and the two other companies that made offers of assistance to Wong through the Star-Bulletin.

I think there’s hope for this world yet.

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