The COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic has cast in deadly high relief that the United States, the richest country on Earth has a dysfunctional health care system. One should not even call it a system. “It’s unimaginable,” a CNN anchor commented upon seeing footage of hospital tents in New York’s Central Park and a refrigerator truck loading up corpses in Brooklyn. The reports of shortages of everything from testing kits to ventilators to masks to gloves to hospital beds boggle the mind. Where was the preparation? And now where is the coordination? States and countries are competing against one another. Viruses do not recognize borders. Collective global action is the only way forward. Universal medical protocols must be in place. An international public health infrastructure is urgently needed or the next pandemic will make this one look like a picnic.
Stephen Bezruchka is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. He worked for many years as an emergency physician in Seattle.