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TV anchorman stranded in Islington told eye might ‘explode’ on flight home

Fox News veteran Dane Placko praises the NHS and staff at Moorfields eye hospital - and says he'd pay more tax to fund a similar service in the US

06 April, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Dane Placko after his operation; inset: Mr Placko on Fox 32 News

AN American reporter who faced an emergency operation on his eye said the experience brought into perspective the stark differences between the US and British healthcare systems.

Dane Placko, 57, a familiar face for Chicagoans who watch Fox 32 News, was on holiday in London with his two daughters over the Easter break when he lost vision in his left eye because of a detached retina.

This week, he praised the NHS and the staff at Moorfields eye hospital in Islington and said he would be open to paying more tax to fund a similar service in the US.

“It was eye opening and interesting to experience the care and to see what it’s like to go through an NHS hospital,” he said.

The veteran anchorman, who joined Fox in 1992, was told by an optician to head straight to the eye hospital in City Road after he woke up “robbed of his vision” in one eye on Saturday. He was on a Harry Potter walk when he first noticed blurriness two days before.

He said: “The idea of universal healthcare has been debated and controversial [in America]. I’ve never had a chance to experience a national healthcare system but I found it lived up to the good and little bit of the bad.”

He added that the doctor he saw at Moorfields was “excellent” and “recognised immediately the issue which needed to be dealt with”.

Mr Placko on Fox 32 News

The journalist was told to return to the hospital early the next day for an emergency operation under local anaesthetic where his retina was successfully reattached.

Mr Placko now faces a four-week delay on returning to the States after being told his eye could “explode” on a flight during his recovery period because of changing cabin pressure. The time will be spent travelling the country by train until he can return to the studio.

He said his experience with the NHS has “so far been very good” and added: “The only drawback was the waiting on the initial day.”

Mr Placko faced a four-and-a-half-hour wait during his initial visit to the hospital during a time he described as “critical”.

He said: “I’ve been of the belief healthcare system [in the US] is immeasurably screwed up. Drug costs are regularly too high and treatment is too expensive. There are two classes of service people receive. People who have no money have to rely on public hospitals.

“They do a good job but can take a long time. Those who have money and good insurance receive good care.

“What struck me about my time at Moorfields was that there was a very broad cross section of society – people who didn’t have money and people who seemed to be prosperous individuals and of all ethnicities. It was more socially representative of the community.”

Mr Placko pays around $2,400 a year – approximately £1,700 – for his yearly healthcare insurance which he says is “not that bad” compared to some of his friends.

He said: “If it could be shown that tax was being used to improve health system for all people in the US it would be a small sacrifice to make.”

The initial visit to the hospital was free for Mr Placko and the half-hour operation will cost him £4,200.

“I suspect it would be considerably more than that in the US,” he said.

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