Health Justice for Boston, Number 2. February 2014

Community Meeting Set


Wednesday, February 19, 2014 ~ 7:00 PM
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice Boston Office
3353 Washington Street corner Green, Jamaica Plain
Short walk from Green Street T Station, Bus Route 42

  • Developments around BU Bioterror Lab
  • SEIU Local 888 Healthcare Committee
  • Status of Community Health Centers
  • Discussion on next steps forward

Defend Our Community Health Centers!
Culturally Competent Care Close to Home

The closing of Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center has created a storm of controversy, when coupled with other cutbacks affecting neighborhood health centers as well as programs such as WIC. Martha Eliot clinic has terminated their adult patients. While WIC is still offered there, the director is shared with Brookside Health Center and there have been sequestration cutbacks that are placing a strain on the remaining staff. Children's Hospital oversees Martha Eliot's pediatric population, but this service may be terminated as well.

Although funds have been made available for RoxComp patients to go elsewhere, chiefly Whittier Street clinic, this does very little for the poor in the cachement area. People who used to take one bus or walk to RoxComp, in the heart of the Black community, find it hard to go way across town while sick, or for preventive services.

Reopen Rox Comp! We demand that Mayor Walsh and Health & Human Services head Felix Arroyo act immediately to ensure that the building at Townsend and Warren Streets, a modern, fully-equipped neighborhood health center, not be sold to the highest bidder and turned into condos! The building belongs to the community! The closing may have had to do with mismanagement and unsafe practices, but the City should act to restore patient care in this underserved area. - Quentin Davis

SEIU Local 888 Tackles Health Care

After two years of dormancy, the SEIU Local 888 Healthcare Committee reconvened. Six of us had a productive conversation at the 888 Hall. Rand Wilson provided an orienting recap of health care costs, health care insurance, and the upcoming bargaining round. Pluses and minuses of the Massachusetts and Federal health insurance marketplace were summarized. The major plus is, of course, that so many uninsured can now get insurance, although most people who have to get insured as individuals aren’t getting very good insurance for their money - co-pays and deductibles are high.

Rand noted that one of the blocks to relative labor consensus on Obamacare is the fact that the law bans Taft-Hartley Health and Welfare Funds from shopping in the new national insurance marketplace. The Teamsters, most of the construction trades, and the hotel workers have Taft-Hartley plans, and all of these unions are extremely upset about the position they have been placed in. Perhaps the biggest negative from workers’ point of view is that employers don’t have to provide health insurance if employees work up to 28 hours. This, of course, incentivizes employers to increase the portion of their employees who are part-time. Richard Krushnic added that in the society-wide scheme of things, the biggest negative is that Obamacare did nothing to reduce administrative costs, which eat up 1/5 of each health care dollar, and added that the only way to do that is to adopt a single payer system like all other advanced societies have. This would reduce administrative costs from 20% to 5% of health care costs.

Rand informed us that 87 888 contracts are up in June of 2014, covering 2,000 workers, nearly ¼ of 888 membership, so there is no time to lose in educating membership about the complex and confusing health care/health insurance reality. Rand emphasized that we must keep clear 1) preparing for bargaining, and 2) struggling over health care policy/legislation, even though the two impact each other. - Richard Krushnic

BU Biolab: “Sloppy”

Following the five October 2001 deaths from anthrax - from mail-delivered spores traced back to a US Army lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland - the Bush Administration responded with a massive influx of pump-priming investment in the biotech industry leading to a proliferation of proposals for new Level-3 and Level-4 biolabs with the capacity for weapons research. Boston University was quick to jump on this gravy train, proposing its tract of land on Albany Street between the Exit 18 ramp to I-93 and Boston Medical Center as a site for one of these labs, where the most deadly germs on the planet could be manipulated, germs such as ebola for which there is no cure.

The Roxbury-South End community, led by Roxbury Safety Net, has been organizing against this threat for a dozen years, and a coalition to stop this lab has taken shape made up of unions, peace, religious and civic groups, and aided by esteemed scientists and an outstanding environmental legal team. Most workers at Boston Medical Center have expressed their dismay and opposition to this risky project through their unions, AFSCME, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and SEIU-1199. This coalition has pushed through resolutions opposing such labs in Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Somerville and Arlington.

Klare Allen from Roxbury Safety Net and I recently attended the monthly meeting of the Boston Biosafety Committee set up by the Boston Public Health Commission. Its current main task is to review the safety protocols proposed by BU, which by current regulation need to be in place before work in the finished lab can begin. In reviewing this example of BU’s work, several committee members offered the adjective “sloppy” to describe the document. We submit that “sloppy” is an apt description for everything the folks at BU and at the National Institutes for Health have done on this project over all these years.

Throughout last year’s municipal election season, the Stop the Biolab Coalition buttonholed Boston candidates, securing pledges to oppose such work from the incoming mayor and a solid majority of councillors. City Councillor Charles Yancey has submitted a proposal to ban Level-4 pathogens from the City. We’ll spread the word far and wide as soon as a date is set for the City Council hearing on this vital measure. - Sandy Eaton

What is Healthcare Justice?

  • Access: Can you get the care you need?
  • Affordability: Will you go bankrupt if you do?
  • Quality: Will you survive your encounter?
  • Equality: Do you meet special barriers to care?

Directory:

For more information on campaigns to make health care a right, not a commodity:

Mass-Care
Healthcare NOW!
Labor Campaign for Single Payer

For help navigating the current system:

Boston Mayor’s HealthLine @ 617-534-5050
Health Care For All - Massachusetts, Consumer Health HelpLine @ 800-272-4232
Massachusetts Health Connector, Customer Support @ 877-623-6765

NB: We’ve changed the name of this newsletter from “Healthy Boston” so as not to be confused with ex-Mayor Tom Menino’s project of the same name.

Sponsor:                         Boston Ad Hoc Committee for Healthcare Justice
For more information:     Quentin Davis @ 617-364-5025 or quen55tin55@hotmail.com
Sandy Eaton @ 617-510-6496 or sandyern@comcast.net