Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 23. November 2015
Tanya King of the Massachusetts Nurses Association is seen here signing up Councillor Yancey on the petition for the 2014 ballot question which would have held hospital administrators accountable for safe staffing to protect patients. Charles Yancey has fought for decades for our schools, our safety and our health. He has been our strongest voice on the Boston City Council in opposing Boston University’s drive to work on our planet’s deadliest germs in its laboratories on Albany Street in the heart of the community and near Boston Medical Center, our premier safety-net hospital.
The global fight to save our planet has brought the Keystone pipeline across North America to a halt, but similar high-risk projects continue. Fracking, the disastrous process of pumping steam laced with noxious chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas, is generating sharp opposition, including an international coalition of unions. Kinder Morgan is now seeking the state’s permission to lay a pipeline across a state forest in the Berkshires. Repeated militant actions, including civil disobedience, erupt to stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, slated to carry fracked gas under high pressure through town. Folks in North Weymouth are mobilized against the opening of a gas compressor there.
Boston was well-represented in Chicago October 30 - November 1 for the National Single Payer Strategy Conference, which pulled together over three hundred delegates and the three major national umbrella organizations working for a just healthcare system. Rand Wilson of SEIU 888, John Walsh of IBEW 2222, Ture Turnbull of Mass-Care, Ben Day of Healthcare NOW!, Vikas Saini of the Lown Center, Massachusetts Nurses Association president Donna Kelly-Williams and Sandy Eaton of Health Justice for Boston were among those from around here.
On October 28th, the Joint Committee on Veterans & Federal Affairs took testimony on the Budget for All resolution (S.1906 & H.3144) which if enacted would have the Commonwealth of Massachusetts petition Congress and the Administration to preserve benefits, invest in this country’s needs, raise revenue from the rich and return money from the military budget for human needs. Mel King led the long list of supporters, asking who is meant by the word “all” in the phrase “liberty and justice for all.” I offered the following testimony on behalf of Health Justice for Boston:
My name is Sandy Eaton. I’m a retired registered nurse. For nearly two years I’ve co-edited the monthly newsletter Health Justice for Boston. I’ve witnessed the growing inequality in health care in Massachusetts, so I strongly support the Budget for All resolutions being considered here today.
For many years now we’ve witnessed the execution of the neocon agenda of regime change, with its concomitant catastrophic spread of suffering and death. While the costs of this to us have skyrocketed, the survival of our healthcare infrastructure has been left to the vagaries of the marketplace. The neoliberal impulse to deregulate and privatize has led us to an extreme divergence between the haves and the have-nots. Some of the most profitable enterprises in this state and in this country are in health care and exist side-by-side with needed facilities and services teetering on the edge. Under this marketplace paradigm, attempts at healthcare reform have so far entrenched and exalted the role played by such unnecessary entities as commercial health insurance, the drug companies and other profiteers.
While Iraq’s excellent public national health system, and the people it served, suffered twelve years of embargo and then the devastation of preemptive invasion and occupation, our bipartisan Massachusetts leadership deregulated hospital finance. The Democratic leader of this push quipped at the time that we would put all the scorpions in one bottle to see who would survive. That is, the marketplace would thin out the number of Boston teaching hospitals, with their higher costs. What the healthcare marketplace has brought us instead is the loss of scores of community hospitals, with such services as emergency departments, while the “scorpions” have survived, albeit transformed somewhat.
Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center was allowed to fail in the Spring of 2013, with one official quipping that Boston had twenty-two such centers so it wasn’t such a big deal. It was a big deal for those in that central Roxbury neighborhood. North Adams Regional Hospital was allowed to succumb to the financial malfeasance of its CEO and board in March 2014, leaving impoverished Northern Berkshire County drastically underserved. Quincy Medical Center fell to this irrational system last December, significantly reducing the region’s surge capacity in case of disaster or epidemic, and harming Quincy’s elderly and diverse population. A similar fate is now in store for Lynn, I’m afraid. Communities of color and other working-class communities are the first to suffer under this regime of marketplace medicine. In any marketplace, there are winners and losers. In health care, we cannot afford any more losers.
The remedies are evident. We demand healthcare justice, a system guaranteeing access, affordability, quality and equality: safe staffing, hospital profit transparency and fairness, a DPH empowered to preserve needed services, receivership power to save failing facilities, a richly-funded distressed hospital fund, brakes on for-profit care, single payer finances and an expanded public sector.
To maintain services and facilities deemed necessary, to fund the transition to a more economical and efficient single-payer financing mechanism, to begin the building of a national health service to guarantee care to all our people, tax Wall Street and slash the war budget. Join us in sending this powerful message to Washington and in fighting for real change. - Sandy Eaton, RN
Right now, we have two presidential candidates supporting single-payer national health insurance, Bernie Sanders running as a Democrat and Jill Stein of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party. Labor for Bernie has organized a standout for Monday, November 23rd, 4:00-6:00 PM, Columbia Road Rotary in Dorchester. See you there?
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:
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: