Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whose Business Is It Anyway?

There is a Golden Moment in the art of debating where your opponent makes a slip which exposes the main flaw in their argument.
One such golden moment has taken place on this blog in the form of this comment:
"This appears to be the immature ravings of undisciplined, self-centred individuals.
Get a job with another employer and try undermining their business to see how long you last in the workforce.
You are coming across, to reasonably thinking people, as people who want to be paid 'appearance money'. Check your employment details!"
Lets take a look at this comment and some of the ideas it presents. The author of the comment suggests that the blog is "undermining their employer's business". Here is the definition of a business:
Economic system in which goods and services are exchanged for one another or money, on the basis of their perceived worth. Every business requires some form of investment and a sufficient number of customers to whom its output can be sold at profit on a consistent basis. "
Lets apply this definition of a business to a Public Hospital or Area Health Service. Take the example of Katoomba hospital. Fristly, what is being "exchanged" for the services which the hospital "business" provides and for what "profit"? Does the hospital make a profit? Does it receive something in exchange for the goods and services it provides? Secondly, Who are the investors? The "investors" are actually the tax payers aren't they?
The reality is that Public Health is a public service, not a business. And even if it were a business, who would be the owner of the business? Wouldn't that be the investors? And aren't the investors the tax payers?

What we have here in the conceptualization of Area Health Services as "businesses" is actually the "fallacy of reification" or "misplaced concreteness". An Area Health Service is not a "thing" in itself; it is simply an organized collection of capital and labour directed at providing a public service. The common fallacy that an Area Health Service is a thing in itself is the result of the recognition of corporations as legal entities before the law. But the staff of the Area Health Service don't work "for" the Area Health Service, they work "in" the Area Health Service "for" the public- i.e., they are public servants.

Conceptualizing public health organizations as "businesses" is not only innappropriate since they are public services, but such flawed conceptualizations are actually the root of many of the problems health services currently face. Expecting a public service to operate like a business is doomed to failure, as is conceptualizing a corporation as anything other than a collection of capital and labour.

The investors in Public Health are the Community- don't they have a right to know what their investment is doing for them?

Understanding such concepts are important if one wishes to enter the health debate.

1 comment:

  1. Where are the interest of Public Health in the planned merger of Oncology and Palliative Care at Westmead Hospital.
    The ignorance of this is just amazing. An ill considered comment in the Parramatta Times by the General Manager who considered that staff could be placated with refurbishments demostrates ignorance of the patients served in these specialites and of the philosophy of care.
    It may make great ecomomics however it does not make great care nor does this plan demonstrate compassion , respect, teamwork nor a shred of understanding about those whom we are charged to care for in their time of need


To encourage other staff to speak out, you have the option of selecting "Anonymous" when commenting. The blogger works in the hospital and knows if comments are true or not. False comments will be removed.