If a drug-discount program Congress created 30 years ago to help disadvantaged patients were working as intended, Norman Otey might still be alive today.
When an ambulance rushed the 63-year-old man, wracked with pain, to the nearest hospital last summer, blood tests indicated he was suffering from septic shock. That’s a life-threatening condition in which an infection causes a patient’s blood pressure to drop dangerously low. But it’s something that an intensive care unit can treat. Otey should have had a fighting chance.
Unfortunately, the nearest facility was Richmond Community Hospital. Located in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Virginia’s capital, it falls well short of a full-service medical center. It’s filled with second-hand equipment and practically devoid of specialist physicians on duty — a kind of monument to health care inequity in America today. And, tragically for Otey, Richmond Community has no ICU.