Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 11. November 2014

Next Boston Community Meeting in December TBA.

We’re fighting to Save Quincy Medical Center before it’s gone forever! Don’t let the dominoes fall.

Market Medicine Undermines Needed Care

The for-profit Steward chain’s plan to close Quincy's hospital in December should ring alarms in Dorchester and Brighton, home to other Steward hospitals, and statewide. Steward had committed to the Attorney General to keep its hospitals open for a period not yet expired. Will the AG's agreement have any teeth? If corporations can shrug off such legal commitments, then how can the people of Massachusetts trust such legal agreements to protect the public interest - in restraining Partners' monopolistic growth, for example, as well as in preserving other Steward hospitals? This announcement also violates the state law requiring 90 days' notice and a hearing before hospitals can close essential services. But current state law has no power to stop a closing. Quincy residents and hospital workers are starting to organize to stop the closing. ( As Quincy's threatened closing and the recent loss of RoxComp Health Center both reveal, this state has made a losing bet in counting on market competition to keep health care services where needed. - Debbie Socolar

RoxComp Property Buyer Announced

On October 29th, a standing-room-only meeting was held to discuss the future of the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center building. Present at the meeting was a large contingent of RoxComp workers who were laid off when the center closed without receiving back pay owed them or any vacation pay, let alone severance. Many of these dedicated employees struggled to keep the center going even after they stopped receiving paychecks and now, a year and a half later, they are running out of patience. They were told they will get their money only after the building has been sold! The meeting was chaired by the court-appointed receiver, Joseph Feaster. He has signed a letter of intent with the Bridge Boston charter school after considering bids from several other entities. This was the first meeting at which this proposal had been presented to members of the community, including the ex-employees. Mossik Hacobian of Higher Ground had organized five past community outreach meetings about the future of RoxComp. After a presentation about the history and goals of the school and its impact on the neighborhood, the decision to spend millions to convert this modern health clinic into classrooms, auditorium, etc was not voted up or down by those present, but more meetings are planned. - Quentin Davis

Voters Back Workers’ Rights

Voters on November 4th guaranteed all employees in Massachusetts a modest but unprecedented sick time benefit, up to five days per year. Each 30 hours worked will earn an hour’s sick time. (In firms with 10 or fewer workers, sick time will be unpaid.) A broad coalition of community and faith groups and labor had collected signatures to get Question 4 on the ballot and organized support to pass it. Across the US, even in states electing pro-billionaire candidates, voters by wide margins approved ballot measures for workers’ rights. In three cities, voters enacted paid sick time laws - up to nine days yearly in Oakland. Most strikingly, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota raised the minimum wage (and non-binding measures passed in Illinois and parts of Wisconsin). San Francisco voters raised it to $15. Recent efforts, including laws in Connecticut and California, have won sick time for about 10 million workers in the US. These victories will encourage efforts already underway in other states. We need to spread the word that every other wealthy nation has laws providing paid maternity/paternity leave, sick time and vacations! - Debbie Socolar

“We don’t want to be a city or region that has amazing healthcare only for the few. That is not the kind of city that any of us wants to live in.” - Boston City Councillor Tito Jackson at the hearing on the Radius closing.

Voters in 10th Suffolk District Support Raising Minimum Wage to $15/hour

63% of voters in 18 precincts in Boston and Brookline voted Yes for the advisory referendum question for a $15/hr minimum wage for Massachusetts. The 8,681 votes in favor expressed West Roxbury, Roslindale and Brookline voters’ wishes for their Democratic Party State Rep Ed Coppinger to enact legislation for this demand. 15 Now, the same organization that led the successful campaign that won $15/hr minimum wage for workers in Seattle earlier this year, mobilized a dynamic campaign to win this important vote in the 10th Suffolk district. Activists knocked on hundreds of doors to bring to residents the arguments for a living wage. Stand-outs were greeted with numerous thumbs up and car honks of support and the eye-catching yard signs were the most visible in the district. Press coverage in the local media for our public meeting in the West Roxbury library was very favorable. On election day, most of the polling stations had 15 Now supporters push the message for an end to poverty wages to any undecideds. At the Holy Name School polling place, Republican Charlie Baker showed up to cast his vote surrounded by the throng of fawning TV and press media. I parked my $15 Minimum Wage sign next to our future governor's tall frame. When he conducted his obligatory hand shakes, I took his hand and the opportunity to ask him if he supported a $15 minimum wage. He replied nervously that he was happy with what we had. I asked if he was okay with working people making poverty wages. No, he said, but what we have now is a good start. Ed Coppinger was there, with his "friend" Charlie, to announce to reporters his endorsement for Governor-elect Baker. I asked Representative Coppinger if he will support the $15/hr minimum wage demand. He vaguely said he "supported raising the minimum wage.” I told him I would be in touch after the vote to get a more definitive answer. 15 Now will use this successful campaign to build a broader grassroots movement against income inequality and low wages. MNA's endorsement of 15 Now and its help with yard signs shows its determination to heal America and take up issues of social injustice that hurt our patients and their families. Locally Mass Teachers Association has also endorsed 15 Now's efforts and a number of other local unions are in the process of giving endorsements. Please consider supporting 15 Now. - Seamus Whelan, RN

Ebola & Boston

When Thomas Eric Duncan, poor, foreign, Black and uninsured, arrived in the emergency room of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, he was at first sent home with an inappropriate antibiotic prescription rather than held until his fever of unknown origin could be identified and properly treated. He later returned, with more glaring and obvious symptoms, only to die without further contact with family and friends. Two of his close care-givers, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, dedicated and conscientious professionals, following CDC guidelines, became infected and the blame game began. That shoddy treatment could have happened just about anywhere in our dysfunctional healthcare system, and bureaucrats will always blame the victims rather than admit that they made mistakes or that their guidelines need to be updated. Roxbury Safety Net and its allies have been well aware of the dangers of high-level pathogens and their manipulation by human beings overseen by bureaucrats. We have been using a variety of tactics for over a dozen years to protect our community from this risk, which made it all the more difficult to hear Boston’s mayor call for speeding up the importation of Ebola and its manipulation in the BU lab on Albany Street near Boston Medical Center. National Nurses United has called for a day of strikes and demonstrations, in conjunction with the Liberian Nurses Union, to demand President Obama and Congress impose on healthcare administrators a mandate to adhere to a uniform and optimal standard of care to protect Ebola patients, their caregivers and their communities. Nurses around the world are demanding that all governments, agencies and organizations wage a campaign against this scourge in the affected counties in West Africa, and that our global public health infrastructure be rebuilt. On October 22nd, Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey submitted an order for a hearing to “examine the response plans and procedures in the City of Boston regarding the Ebola virus.” We heartily welcome this initiative and look forward to this opportunity to have many of our questions answered. As soon as a date is set, we will spread the word. - Sandy Eaton, RN

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?


For more information on health care as a right, not a commodity:

Mass-Care   Healthcare NOW!   Labor Campaign for Single Payer

To navigate 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

For more information, contact:

Quentin Davis @ 617-553-2949 or
Sandy Eaton @ 617-510-6496 or
Health Justice for Boston is archived on Seachange Bulletin.
Sponsor: Health Justice for Boston