I was sitting in the First Aid Station at King's Dominion Amusement Park last night, desperately trying to coax the clock into moving faster so that I could go home. I'm a park Medic there, and was the only ALS provider on duty, so I couldn't scoot out early. With my luck, even though the most serious patient I had was an employee who somehow managed to staple his palm, it would be my luck to have some hapless soul choose to have their "Big One" about 10 minutes after I walked out the gate, and I'd get in trouble. So I passed the time by reading an interesting article in an arcane EMS magazine that someone had left behind... it was titled "Ambulance Abuse." It immediately grabbed my attention.
The article was written by a physician who was commenting on a mindset or mentality that we seem to encounter on an alarmingly more frequent basis... both in the medical field, and in life in general. And anyone who has spent any time on an ambulance, a fire engine, or in a hospital ER knows that there are people out there... and an unnervingly large number of them... who seriously, earnestly, believe that they are "owed" something by society. Or the gub'ment. In fact, everything. Whatever they want. You see, they are "entitled."
These people stub their toe, or run out of a prescription, or don't feel like taking a taxi to a doctor's appointment, or just want a ride across town, or think they'll get to bypass the 2-3 hour wait at their local ER, all by calling 9-1-1, and requesting that a $250,000 piece of equipment scream to their domicile, lights and siren, placing crew and citizens alike at extreme risk, because... well... they can. They're "entitled."
I can't tell you how many homes I've pulled up on to find the "patient" standing at the curb with their bag packed. Or sitting in their living room, too absorbed watching "Wheel of Fortune" (and yes, they would thank you to please SHUT THE HECK UP until the show's over, thankyouverymuch) to even tell you what's wrong. Or wait until they're at Day 7 of the 10-Day Flu to call you because they're annoyed at still being sick... in the middle of a hurricane, with rain coming down in sheets... sideways. It's "no big thang." They're entitled, you see. These people can have 14 perfectly functional cars sitting in their driveway/yard, with a dozen able-bodied family members standing around, all of which are perfectly capable of driving Ms. Stubbed Toe to the ER or Doc-In-A-Box, but the thought literally never crosses their mind. Why? They're "entitled."
Unfortunately, all too often this means that Mr. Innocent-Patient-Who-*IS*-Having-The-Big-One is going to die, because the $250,000 piece of equipment, and the highly skilled, highly educated minds who know how to use it, are 20 minutes away, out of service, taking Ms. Stubbed-Toe-Entitlement, all comfy-cozy, with LOTS of attention, to the ER all the way across town (which she is promptly going to walk out of in an Oscar-worthy snit when she finds out they're just gonna send her to the lobby anyway).
Oy. What have we done to create this monster? And better yet, how do we put this very ugly Genie back into it's "teeeeeny tiny living space"? Many ideas abound. The author of the article I read suggested making some personal payment mandatory... that even a modest charge would discourage system abusers from taking advantage of the system... and charging the fee to their cell phone... which is more likely to get paid than a normal bill. But I can just hear the backlash from the Entitlement Brigade now. "But I pays my taxes, I DESERVE this... I'm ENTITLED to you bein' here whenever I call, for WHATEVER I call for... b@$%#."
Still other remedies involve putting more paramedics on the street to "screen" patients in Community Medic roles, effectively putting them in a combination role of ad hoc primary care provider and social worker... making "frequent fliers" their only responsibility... making sure, for instance, their prescriptions are filled, and that they have proper referrals to health care agencies, and transportation to their doctor's appointments. Washington D.C. just implemented this, putting 30 more paramedics on the street in an effort to stem the rising tide of entitlement-driven "frequent flyer" calls that overload and tax almost all EMS agencies in the country.
Will either of these be the ultimate Magical Solution? Of course not. Until we address the actual cause of the Entitlement Syndrome, all of this is straightening deck chairs on the Titanic. It's high time the pseudo-religious, who will call an ambulance for a sniffle, but who show up faithfully at church every Sunday, to dust off their Bibles, use them for something other than doorstops, and take the time to seriously look at the Bible's teachings on idleness and sloth. More realistically, it's high time that families... moms and dads... kick in, and teach their children the precious (and all but extinct) ideals of personal responsibility, accountability, self-sufficiency, and LAWDY LAWDY, the ultimate profanity of the Entitlement Set, "hard work." Our grandfather's adage of "There is no free lunch" has been replaced with today's "like HECK there isn't, and I'll take fries with that."
Our society is teeming with the Terminally Lazy, and careening toward the potentially prophetic societal vision of WALL*E.. where humans are reduced to great non-ambulatory quivering blobs of flesh, unable to and unaccustomed to moving because someone else is doing it all for them. How do we stop this train before its' too late? Teaching the value of good ole'-fashioned elbow grease at home. And lots of it.
But that's just me. Your mileage may vary.