Michael R. Bloomberg isn’t a doctor, and he doesn’t even play one on television. But that hasn’t stopped him from practicing medicine. Last July, he ordered New York City hospitals to begin hiding baby formula so that mothers of newborns would be forced to nurse their infant children. A month earlier, he enacted a ban on soft drinks larger than 16 fluid ounces, seeming to understand that if he didn’t take action, his patients – er, subjects … er, constituents … would drink themselves to an early, sugary death.
Now Bloomie is at it again. The New York Times reports that on Thursday, the mayor announced that ER patients at the city’s 11 public hospitals would have to bite the bullet from now on – literally. In order to crack down on what he dubbed a “citywide epidemic of prescription drug abuse,” he said, hospitals would no longer be permitted to dispense more than three days’ worth of narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. And long-acting painkillers – think OxyContin and Fentanyl patches – won’t be administered at all.
“Abuse of prescription painkillers in our city has increased alarmingly,” he told reporters at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, one of the hospitals affected by the new policy.
So what could be bad? The Times answers that question with a second opinion, this one furnished by Dr. Alex Rosenau, president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians. A senior vice chairman of emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Eastern Pennsylvania, Rosenau – who does have a license to practice medicine – is quoted as saying:
Here is my problem with legislative medicine. It prevents me from being a professional and using my judgment.
He noted that the one-pain-level-fits-all approach to medicine has its share of pitfalls. One example he gave is a patient with a hand injury, who may require more than three days of pain relief until the swelling goes down and an operation could be scheduled.
City health officials pooh-poohed that reservation, claiming that patients who need prescriptions for cancer pain or other palliative care will still be able to obtain the painkillers they need, just not in the emergency room any longer. Besides, with Obamacare on the verge of kicking in, the most widespread pain patients will begin experiencing – in the region of the gluteus maximus –won’t respond to ordinary analgesics anyway.
Howard Portnoy has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, and The George Espenlaub Show.
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