Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Good Morning Baghdad! Health Care Professionals To Be Drafted?

No draft, says George Bush, no how, no way. Nope, not to save Iraq from itself, not if North Korea goes over the wall, not if Iraq starts arming its nukes. No way. We have plenty of troops. Not a problem.

Well, that is unless you're a doctor or nurse, according to a story in the NY Times. It seems that back injuries, SARS and the flu vaccine shortage may be the least of their problems:
The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps.

In a confidential report this summer, a contractor hired by the agency described how such a draft might work, how to secure compliance and how to mold public opinion and communicate with health care professionals, whose lives could be disrupted.
The plan would require 3.4 million male and female health care workers to register with the Selective Service.

And how likely is this? Should American health care workers start stocking up on suntan lotion?
In a recent article in The Wisconsin Medical Journal, published by the state medical society, Col. Roger A. Lalich, a senior physician in the Army National Guard, said: "It appears that a general draft is not likely to occur. A physician draft is the most likely conscription into the military in the near future."

Since 2003, the Selective Service has said it is shifting its preparations for a draft in a national crisis toward narrow sectors of specialists, including medical personnel.

Colonel Lalich, citing Selective Service memorandums on the subject, said the Defense Department had indicated that "a conventional draft of untrained manpower is not necessary for the war on terrorism." But, he said, "the Department of Defense has stated that what most likely will be needed is a 'special skills draft,' " including care workers in particular.

And what implications would this have on the already taxed public health system in this country? What impact would it have on homeland security if tens of thousands of health care workers are in basic training or overseas?

Not to worry:
The contractor hired by Selective Service, Widmeyer Communications, said that local government operations would be affected by a call-up of emergency medical technicians, so it advised the Selective Service to contact groups like the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties.

Doctors and nurses would be eligible for deferments if they could show that they were providing essential health care services to civilians in their communities.
Oh, well that's better. We'll just round up the "non-essential" health care workers.


And for more on the pathology reasoning behind Bush's no-way, no-how draft policy, check out Matthew Yglesias and Josh Marshall.