Saturday, January 28, 2017

Standing room only

We had set up chairs for 75 people, hoping we wouldn't be embarrassed by an empty room at the Norwich Senior Center on Wednesday night.
Our Eastern Connecticut Healthcare Coalition was holding a public forum with our congressman, Joe Courtney.
That worry was unfounded as people filed in, and filed in, and filed in.
But the time we started, we had filled every available spot with extra chairs and still people had to line the outside of the room standing.
Joe spoke of the threats to healthcare in this country that are coming from the Trump administration; the repeal of the ACA, block grants for Medicaid, privatization of Medicare. Local community and labor leaders echoed his concerns that 18 million Americans could  lose healthcare coverage. They also spoke of concerns over the further consolidation of hospitals into Mega Healthcare corporations who fail to put patients before profits.

But we weren't there just to lament over the destruction of healthcare, we were there as a call to action. Like the hundreds of thousands who gathered in Washington last weekend for the Women's March and the 10,000 who gathered in Hartford the same day, we were there because it's time to act.
That's why the room was full.
AFT Director of Nurses and Healthcare Professional's Kelly Trautner, and Local presidents Harry Rodriquez and Lisa D'Abrosca spoke of efforts underway to push back and called the concerned citizens to action.
The next morning, I was asked to stand in for AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel at a press conference while she spoke at a rally.
Like the night before, the hearing room for the press conference was packed with citizens speaking in support of a bill that would correct an injustice that denies undocumented Connecticut students the ability to apply for financial aid, financial aid that their tuition funds.
At the press conference State Senator Mae Flexor said Connecticut will reject the agenda of the Trump administration. At the Rally, Jan issued a call to action to protect higher education for all.

I believe we will.
These are dark times.
Some see others who may look different than us, maybe due to darker skin, a foreign accent, a different way to pray, or to love, as a threat.
But there are many who continue to see them as our sisters and brothers.
The packed Mall in Washington and the standing room only crowds in Connecticut show that.
At the forum on Wednesday night, CCAG's Ann Pratt reminded us that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Well, we're standing now, lets lace up those shoes, we've got marching to do.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What now?

Yesterday, Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.

What now?

Some people think that democrats should oppose everything he and the republican congress proposes, others think they should try to find common ground.
Most remain unsure what Trump believes in and stands for.

He ran on a populist campaign, promising to make America great again by putting American workers first in every decision. He spoke to that in his address yesterday.

But his actions don't match his words.

Many of his cabinet picks have histories that show they do not put middle class workers first.
His picks for Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Attorney General are particularly disturbing.
I have nothing against private schools but I do not think taking middle class taxes and paying for private schools is a middle class value, as DeVos advocates.
I have nothing against improving the Affordable Healthcare Act but I do not think a plan that would strip insurance from 18 million Americans, tax the value of employer provided health insurance as income, and come with lifetime maximums on benefits which mean if your child is born with a bad heart or develops leukemia, you would quickly run out of insurance, incur high medical debt, and maybe lose your house, is a middle class value, as Price proposed as a member of congress.

Recently Trump has started to promise that his healthcare plan would provide insurance for everyone.
Great, that's a middle class value!
Then why was his first executive order, signed only hours after becoming president, to repeal the ACA? His administration has marching orders to do everything they can under the law to circumvent the ACA until congress passes a full repeal.

So far, his actions don't match his words. They do not show he supports middle class values.

So what do we do to protect middle class workers and the students, patients and public we serve?

Let me tell you what I did yesterday.

With the other offices of AFT Connecticut, we visited with the members of UHP, the healthcare professionals of John Dempsey Hospital, 2,600 AFT nurses and other healthcare members who work for the state of Connecticut.  Bill Garrity, their president, had invited Jan Hochadel, AFT Connecticut president, there to lead a discussion about the challenges facing our state and country and how it will effect their hospital and patients.  For an hour she answered question after thoughtful question, and listened to their concerns.

That's what we do now. As always, the answer is simple. We talk to our members, we talk to our patients, we talk to our students and their parents, we talk to our legislators and we talk to our neighbors.
But, more than talk....
we listen.
We organize, we engage, we mobilize.
We stand together for the values we believe in. We stand with those who support our values and we oppose those who seek to destroy them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Caring for those who care for us

In one study from 2014, 80% of nurses reported being attacked while on the job in the previous 12 months.
Think about that a minute.

Nurses, other healthcare professionals and social workers are attacked and injured on a daily basis and at alarming frequency.
These people who have dedicated their lives to the idea that Mark spoke of, "For when I was sick, you cared for me."

It is our duty as a society to care for those who care for us.

That presents us with 2 responsibilities.
First, we must do everything in our power to keep them safe and second we must support them in their life calling.
All workers who care for us need and deserve to be safe.
All workers who care for us deserve our support in their life mission and our agreement with them that healthcare is a fundamental right.

This past Tuesday, Helene Andrews from Danbury Hospital, I, and our brothers and sisters from across the country convened for a hearing in Washington DC on an OSHA standard on workplace violence. It's protection that workers have been advocating for and we had filed a petition asking that the process to develop such protection be started. Helene told her story of how she had been injured at work, not once, but twice. Each time required surgery. I participated in a panel discussion on what would be needed in a standard on workplace violence.
OSHA has excepted our petition and agreed to proceed with the multi-year process.

This Sunday, across the country, people will gather for a day of action for healthcare. We will meet at the Connecticut State Capital at 1:00 pm, with community, labor, and legislative leaders. information here
I hope you can join us.

It is an opportunity to affirm our belief that healthcare for all is a right.
It is an opportunity to show those who care for us that we will care for them.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's (Not) Just Business

How often do we see it?
Two large corporations merge, the CEO of the smaller corporation get a big payday and rides into the sunset.
The stockholders get a small bump in the price of their stock.
Everyone's happy.

Sometimes this is a good thing.
The CEO of a startup invests his capital and talent, develops a new idea, and is rewarded.
The acquiring corporation incorporates the new idea and improves their product.

Sometimes it's good for the CEOs and the stockholders, but not so much for consumers.
A corporation buys out a competitor, closes some locations, and now can charge whatever they wish for that cup of latte.

This week, Bruce Cummings, the CEO of L&M hospital, announced his retirement. He sighted the work he did shepherding in the merger of his community hospital and Yale Healthcare.
Now he's gone.
The question is, what are we left with in his wake?
Yale now has control of Healthcare along the entire coast of Connecticut.
Has Yale acquired some new ideas to incorporate on how to perform surgeries, or have they just positioned themselves better to demand what they want for the cost of doing those surgeries?

Not long ago, Hartford Healthcare acquired two other Eastern Connecticut community hospitals and Prospect Healthcare acquired yet two more.
The CEO of Manchester and Rockville Hospitals, now part of Prospect Healthcare, is now retired.
The CEO of Backus and Windham Hospitals, now part of Hartford Healthcare, is now a top executive of Hartford Healthcare.

Across this country, the mergers of big Hospital Corporations, Pharmaceutical Corporations, and Insurance Corporations is accelerating at breakneck speed in an "arms race" for the incredible amount of money that we spend on healthcare.

It would be one thing if these were coffee shops, and the concern was a higher priced Latte.
But they are not.
The concern is a closing of services at community hospitals and a decrease in competition has been shown to lead to increased costs of medical care.

Right now in Connecticut, the Governor's Certificate of Need Task Force, the very process that regulates such mergers, is nearing it's final recommendations.
They have an historic opportunity to deliver a set of recommendations that can protect the cost, access and quality of the healthcare of the citizens of Connecticut.
I pray they will.