The need from the viewpoint of the homeless patient:
Imagine you are homeless and living on the streets. Now, imagine that you are homeless and sick and living on the streets. Your original complaint might be a sore throat with a nagging chest cough but:
- You have no health insurance.
- You have no regular doctor or health care provider.
- The closest clinic is miles away and your primary form of transportation is walking or riding a bike.
By the time your friends carry you into the emergency room your nagging chest cough has turned into life-threatening pneumonia.
What do you do? The logical decision is to tough it out and hope you’ll get lucky. So you wait. And you cough. And you cough even more. Sometimes for weeks.
Now, your simple chest cough has developed into bronchitis. But you still tough things out. And you cough. And you cough even more. Soon, you just can’t take it any more. You drag yourself to the nearest Urgent Care for help. They refuse to see you because a) you have no insurance and b) they believe you have pneumonia which is beyond their scope of practice.
So you tough things out for a few more days. By the time your friends carry you into the emergency room your nagging chest cough has turned into life-threatening pneumonia.
After treatment in the emergency room, you are discharged with a prescription for antibiotics with a $4 co-pay. You don’t have $4. So you take the three-day supply of antibiotic pills they gave you and hope for the best.
In days, you again have a sore throat. And then you start to cough…
This cycle is a health care emergency: a community health care emergency that is regularly — and far-too-predictably — taking the lives of homeless patients across the country.