We witnessed something shocking last weekend, a saga that touches on the shortcomings of a healthcare system that's so often the source of political division these days. It also makes a case for just how inhumane our fair city can be.
On Sunday night, a Yellow Cab pulled up to the corner of Ryman and Broadway streets in downtown Missoula. The cabbie got out and helped his passengeran elderly man with one legto the ground. No wheelchair was produced. There were no crutches. Instead, in full view of bar patrons, bartenders and an Indy reporter, the cabbie got in his car and drove away. His fare was left crawling across the sidewalk on his stomach, with his elbows.
Two bartenders and several bar patrons went to his aid. The man was out of itwhether intoxicated or otherwise mentally impaired, it was hard to say. He said he'd just been discharged from Saint Patrick Hospital. The medical patches on his stomach attested that he'd been to a hospital, and one of the bartenders familiar with the man said he suffers from health issues.
He said he lived upstairs in the Palace Apartments, but once inside, a neighbor said he was supposed to be staying at a hotel while his apartment was being renovated. A keycard in his front pocket seemed to attest to that. The neighbors obligingly took him in. A short while later, several Missoula police officers came and removed him.
While there seems to be plenty of blame to go aroundno wheelchair? no drop-off strategy? no guarantee he'd reach home safe?it seems more constructive to consider this story as a measure of a broken system. According to Disability Rights Montana, roughly 17 percent of Montanans live with a disability. State and national statistics consistently show that adults with disabilities are more likely to suffer health problems, and that those same adults are more likely to be uninsured and unable to afford to see a doctor.
Yet issues like healthcare reform get mired in endless partisan debate. It's tempting to say this man fell through a crack. Down there on Broadway, it looked more like a chasm.