Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 21. September 2015
Boston Celebrates Labor Day
The day of action started early, with visibilities outside the Park Plaza Hotel by Labor and allies supporting Senator Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and fighting efforts to privatize public transportation in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, IBEW Local 2222 (which is made up of Verizon workers in the area, locked in tough contract nego-tiations), Ironworkers Local 7 and the Boston Carmen’s Union mobilized for justice. Then the Greater Boston Labor Council’s Labor Day breakfast heard from a stream of union and elected officials, culminating in the appearance of President Obama. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh haled the wedding anniversary of Mel and Joyce King, and the President announced his signing of an executive order granting sick leave to workers employed by contractors doing business with the federal government. Later, throngs gathered on Boston Common and then marched out to confront assorted exploiters in the area.
The Coalition to Stop the BU Bioterror Lab met with Boston Public Health Commission staff on August 24th. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) had made a formal request to Boston Health & Human Services Chief Felix Arroyo to meet with him to discuss the growing national awareness of the dangers created by the opening of more and more high-containment labs, such as Boston University’s labs on Albany Street near Boston Medical Center. LULAC’s request, on behalf of our whole coalition, led to this meeting, which ran over two hours. Just one month before, our strong delegation of community leaders, nurses and distinguished scientists sat down with state officials. We again thoroughly reviewed the dangers presented by the rash of human errors surrounding these biolabs nationally and our community’s lack of preparedness for any outbreak. We presented the facts surrounding breaches of security coming to light in recent months involving anthrax, avian flu, and even smallpox. After discovery of the mistaken delivery of live anthrax spores to labs in every state and nine foreign countries, deliveries originating in the US Army lab at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, all work with “select agents” was halted in nine laboratories run by the Pentagon until uniform and adequate protocols are in place. We asked that no permits be granted to BU for “gain of function” work on “potential pandemic pathogens” until the Centers for Disease Control and the Pentagon have universally accepted enforceable protocols for such work in place. The Commission staff affirmed that they have the authority over any Level 3 and Level 4 labs in the City and the power to shut them down for failing any inspection. They asserted that their protocols are stricter than any federal guidelines out there. The Massachusetts Nurses Association presented them with extensive research and recommendations on personal protective equipment for clinical personnel and first responders and the training necessary to use it properly. The Commission staff promised to bring our requests and recommendations to the attention of the Commission, and to follow up with us as needed. Meetings with federal officials are now being organized. - Sandy Eaton
Beginning next month, Health Justice for Boston will publish a series of in-depth looks at Boston’s Community Health Centers, their performance and governance.
What is healthcare justice?
Access: Can you get the health services you need in the most appropriate setting in a timely manner? Even when current legislation is fully enacted, we will still have tens of millions of people in the US without coverage.
Affordability: Can you access needed health services without going bankrupt or depriving yourself or your family of other life necessities, like food and rent? Medical debt remains the single greatest cause of personal bankruptcy, and healthcare costs are driving more municipalities toward insolvency.
Quality: What are your chances of surviving an encounter with our current healthcare system? While an estimated forty thousand people in this country die each year from lack of health insurance, four hundred thousand die each year unnecessarily in our hospitals from preventable infections, injuries and other complications.
Equality: Do you, your family or your community experience special barriers to needed care? Mass-Care sponsored a study comparing current health outcomes in Roxbury with those in the 1970s, without finding significant improvement despite official commissions and scads of discussion of diversity and disparities.
For more information on health care as a right, not a commodity:
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: