Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 3. March 2014

February Meeting Dynamic

Our standing-room-only meeting February 19th in the Jamaica Plain office of Jobs with Justice brought together an ever-expanding network of activists seeking to forge an effective grassroots movement to win and maintain healthcare justice in Boston.

Klare Allen from Roxbury Safety Net reported on the latest developments in the twelve-year fight to keep the world's deadliest pathogens out of the community. Environmental justice fighters are monitoring the Boston Biosafety Committee established by the Boston Public Health Commission. Contrary to popular belief, the Level-4 work of the NEIDL (National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory) isn't a done deal. The building is completed, and the risks to Boston residents are greater. But permits are needed for specific projects. (See report below.)

Jorge Vargas brought news from the healthcare committee of SEIU Local 888. As the union prepares for contract negotiations with a number of employers, including the City of Boston, health care remains a burning issue. Some have proposed a merger of the healthcare committee with the local's political action arm to better deal with health care in bargaining and as a strategic social good.

Quentin Davis led off an extended discussion on the status of Boston's community health centers. In this era of cutbacks, attention is now focused on closure one year ago of Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center. Folks from its cachement area are now subject to a burdensome trek to outlying centers. We learned that the RoxComp property is in receivership, with a current asking price of $4 million. (See report below.)

Sandy Eaton then opened a discussion of haves and have-nots in health care, a phenomenon nowhere as sharp as in Boston. One of the two healthcare questions headed to November's ballot, the Hospital Profit Transparency & Fairness Act, is intended to expose financial inequities and to claw back excess hospital CEO compensation and hospital profits into a fund to enhance Medicaid payments to safety-net institutions.

Ben Day reported recent unsuccessful efforts by the Jamaica Plain community to stop the repurposing of the Martha Eliot Community Health Center. Adult services were eliminated by Children's Hospital. Anxiety regarding the possibility of further cuts persists. What is the nature of the relationship between the hospitals and the centers? With what impact on the community's health? Ben Day and Joyce Carter both spoke to the added benefits offered to community health centers under the Affordable Care Act.

Nancy Kohn, reflecting on our overarching goal of making health care a human right, spoke to the sterling experience of Cuba in this regard and the humane spending priorities in contemporary Venezuela.

Our next meeting will be in the RoxComp neighborhood with a focus on saving that vital resource.

Time to Stop the BU Biolab!

We've entered the end-game in our twelve-year campaign to block the entrance of our planet's deadliest incurable pathogens into our community. The building is up. The federal court has ruled in favor of the National Institutes of Health and Boston University concerning their risk assessment, which considers various scenarios, alternative locations and risks inherent to Level 4 research. A state court ruling is still pending. Neither court can decide that the lab is safe enough or should operate. That's up to us.

The Roxbury Safety Net and the STOP the BU Bio-Terror Lab Coalition first filed an ordinance to prohibit Level 4 research in the City of Boston in 2003 to ensure the residents of the City of Boston and neighboring communities would have the final say through the City Council and their testimony to ban BSL4 research. During last year's municipal election campaign, we secured pledges of support from the new mayor and nine winning councillors (out of thirteen).

In January, Councillors Yancey, Pressley and Jackson again introduced an ordinance to block Level-4 work in the City. Docket #0227 has been assigned to the Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Councilor Michael Flaherty. BU has been pressuring the City Council to delay action on this measure, while the community has been pushing for swift enactment.

After delays, the public hearing is now definitely set for Monday, April 14th. Council chambers are on the fifth floor of Boston City Hall. Bring your family, your neighbors and your friends. Proceedings begin at six o’clock. Come early to be sure to find a seat. The Coalition has prepared panels of expert witnesses, but the community’s massive presence will win the day! - Klare Allen & Sandy Eaton

Save RoxComp!

Community health centers play a crucial role in the health of Boston residents. People who do not receive medical attention at these centers will likely wind up in the emergency room at exorbitant prices, without reliable followup or preventive care. Affiliation with teaching hospitals is required for fiscal reasons, but does not play an essential role for these patients.

Until a year ago, the residents of a large area of Roxbury and Dorchester received services at the modern, well-equipped Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center at the corner of Warren and Townsend Streets. RoxComp was closed following allegations of mismanagement and safety violations. Many employees did not receive their last few paychecks. The building is still standing vacant and is slated to be sold. Community organizers and healthcare providers are demanding that the City of Boston reopen the Center rather than allow it to be converted to any other use, such as retail, offices or condominiums. The reason for this is obvious. RoxComp belongs to the community!

The federal government has allocated money for RoxComp patients to be seen elsewhere, primarily at Whittier Street Health Center. This is highly unsatisfactory for two main reasons: It is difficult for a patient who used to walk or take one short bus ride to receive care, which included counseling and preventive care, to go way across town, especially when sick. Secondly, the other healthcare centers were already at capacity and cannot easily convert the federal grants into new buildings and staffing to accept the additional caseload.

Federal funds have also been given to the centers to enroll area residents in insurance programs through the Connector. Those without papers, even though paying taxes, are now excluded from participating in these programs, a public health absurdity. Centers receiving federal funds are in for a shock in October 2015 when current funding drops by 70% unless Congress is moved to intervene.

We must ask: What is the responsibility of the haves in Boston health care to the have-nots? What should the teaching hospitals do to maintain and improve services in the community? What is Boston Medical Center’s “public health mission” with respect to the community health centers? What measures can the City of Boston take to reopen RoxComp and enhance the health of all residents?

Let's get involved and reopen RoxComp, a vital asset that belongs to the community. Contact us or attend our next organizing meeting coming in April. - Quentin Davis

Mass-Care Spring Gala

Ryles Jazz Club, Inman Square, Cambridge
Saturday, April 12th, 1:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Honoring:         Julie Pinkham, RN, MNA

                                Paul Toner, MTA

Keynote:          Don Berwick, MD

Refreshments:  S&S Deli
Raffle & Entertainment too!

For ticket or program ad information, contact:
Mass-Care @ 617-723-7001 or

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 campaigns to make health care a right, not a commodity:

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: Boston Ad Hoc Committee for Healthcare Justice

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.