Jeff Manning’s analysis of hospital finances is a focused and frightening look at our current medical crunch in Oregon. (“Hospital executives who expected rebound from COVID this year say they’re stunned by financial losses instead,” Sept. 3) As a recently retired surgeon, I’ll offer a broader view.

U.S. medicine is ill. It’s not an Oregon issue, a COVID-19 issue or a new issue. Our medical system is suffering from a “monetary” cancer—a cancer that has moldered for decades. The pandemic simply unmasked the symptoms. Misplaced financial incentives, callous bureaucracy and communication collapse have led to systemic burnout and a rush to the exit.

I’ve worked with some brilliant bedside nurses, and their job can be grueling. To most, it was never about the money, but pandemic fatigue coupled with excessive and pointless paperwork suck the joy from patient care. Why wouldn’t nurses jump ship to “travel” and take double the pay, hoping in vain to backfill their punctured compassion? Doctors, pharmacists and other medical workers are tight on their heels—discouraged exhaustion being the common denominator.

Virginia Williams, Curry County’s CEO, boldly summarized it well. “We’re making health care unsafe.”

The day U.S. health care decided to chase profit “margins” of 5, 6, or 7%, was the day we lost the caring part of health care.

We can choose our sneakers and supermarkets but not our health. Every one of us will one day fall ill or fall to the ground. Medical care will never be perfect, but nonprofit universal care is the only solution to a universal need.

Ron Turker, Lake Oswego

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