Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 12. December 2014

Overbedded or Underserved?

A sample of the tragic closings we’ve suffered:

July 18, 1993        Saint Margaret's Hospital (Dorchester)
May 13, 2003        Waltham Hospital
March 22, 2013     Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center
March 28, 2014     North Adams Regional Hospital
October 7, 2014    Radius Specialty Hospitals (Roxbury & Quincy)

Tragically, our state has lost many valuable caregivers since a 1991 law deregulated hospital finance, in hopes competition would cut costs. Marketplace madness resulted, with mergers to avoid competition (Partners in 1993, then more), many service cuts and hospital closings, and for-profit chains invited to rescue endangered hospitals. State Senate Health Care Chair Ed Burke (D-Framingham) had advocated “putting all the scorpions in one bottle to see who’ll survive” - seeking competition among costly Boston teaching hospitals. But the losers have been working-class communities and their smaller, lower-cost hospitals.

Our First Anniversary

Health Justice for Boston, an initiative of Mass-Care and its Three Cities Project, is one year old! Since last December, we’ve met regularly at Jobs with Justice in Jamaica Plain and Higher Ground in Roxbury. This month, together with the South Shore Coalition for Human Rights, Mass-Care, Jobs with Justice and others, we’ll meet in Quincy on December 12th to try to help stop the elimination of acute care in this diverse, working-class city. All year, we addressed burning health issues brought to us. City of Boston workers secured their healthcare benefits at the bargaining table. Our wholehearted support continues for the twelve-year fight to stop Boston University’s Albany Street biolab from importing the planet’s deadliest germs. We were too late to keep open RoxComp Health Center, but hope to help return more services to this community.

The for-profit Steward chain now aims to close Quincy’s hospital. It could, at a whim, close Carney in Dorchester, Saint Elizabeth’s in Brighton and other hospitals in working-class cities from Fall River to Ayer. As each facility falls, nearby hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics may be overwhelmed. Some patients will be lost, especially poorer and sicker people, less mobile, with restrictive insurance. Timely access to needed care disappears. We must unite to end the current deal with the devil of marketplace medicine - to guarantee health care as a human right, not a commodity! - Sandy Eaton & Debbie Socolar

Save Quincy Medical Center
QMC, Steward & the Community
Open Forum on the Path Ahead

  • Quincy’s hospital doesn’t have to close. Don't believe that it is a done deal.
  • Promises must be kept! Steward must not be allowed to destroy this resource.

Friday, December 12th @ 7:00 PM
United First Parish Church
("Church of the Presidents")
1306 Hancock Street, Quincy Square
at Quincy Center MBTA Red Line Station

Sign the Attorneys General Petition: http://chn.ge/1q3emzG

Sponsor:        South Shore Coalition for Human Rights
Endorsers:      Health Justice for Boston, Mass-Care, Massachusetts JwJ (list in formation)

Contact:          SSCHR, PO Box 64, North Pembroke, MA 02358

deannawh1@comcast.net, 617-510-6496


Steward Health Care's owner is Cerberus Capital Management, one of the nation's largest private equity investment firms, headquartered in New York City. Besides Quincy, Steward/Cerberus is the major employer and controls access to care in these working-class communities: Fall River, Taunton, Stoughton, Brockton, Norwood, Dorchester, Brighton, Methuen, Haverhill and Ayer. The very real threat that Cerberus may pull the plug on Steward and create a disaster not only for Quincy but for all of Eastern Massachusetts has many paralyzed. And for-profit Steward pays taxes, giving it a political advantage among local officials of income-strapped municipalities. Steward's claim that QMC will be $20m in debt for this year alone is hard to confirm or to refute, since it refuses to file its consolidated financials. Cerberus may now find it more lucrative to engage in real estate speculation than provide health care to working-class communities.

Deregulation, privatization and magical thinking on markets are neoliberal dogmas absorbed by politicians at all levels in both major parties. Our Democratic legislature and Republican governor in 1991 together deregulated hospital finance.  Every so-called health reform further entrenched corporate control of care and promoted competition to cut costs. But markets in health care can never be truly "free" so, instead of efficiency, competition gave us "survival of the fattest," with the richest, costliest facilities prevailing. Hence the accelerating cutbacks and closures in communities of color and other working-class areas. Waltham Hospital, Urban Medical Group, Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, North Adams Regional Hospital, Lynn Union Hospital, Pathways to Wellness, Radius Specialty Hospital in Roxbury and Quincy are but a few of our losses. In May 2013, the Department of Public Health held the required hearing on Steward's decision to close the pediatric unit at Morton Hospital in Taunton. The DPH declared that service vital to the health of the community. Since it lacked any enforcement power, it could not stop Steward from going ahead with that closure, which coincidentally violated Steward's covenant with the attorney general to maintain services as a condition for converting the hospital to for-profit status.

What we’re experiencing right now is Steward Health Care’s crass and criminal behavior superimposed on a healthcare system dysfunctional in terms of guaranteeing optimal care for working-class families and communities but ideal for maximizing profits for those positioned to win. We must change this. - Sandy Eaton & Debbie Socolar

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

Sponsor: Health Justice for Boston

For more information, contact:

Quentin Davis @ 617-553-2949 or davisquestin@gmail.com
Sandy Eaton @ 617-510-6496 or sandyern@comcast.net

Health Justice for Boston is archived on Seachange Bulletin.
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