Sunday, November 25, 2007 2:36 PM

'SiCKO-Cure Road Show' Storms into New Orleans

SiCKO joins voices calling for Charity Hospital reopening

By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

NEW ORLEANS -- The SiCKO Cure Road Show rolled into New Orleans on Saturday, and the road show team immediately joined a meeting of local activists fighting the demolition of thousands of public housing units. Though some relatively powerful groups oppose the loss of some 3,900 public housing units, the demolitions will begin on December 4 unless an unexpected court ruling or an even more unlikely change of heart occurs to halt the tearing down of this vital housing for low income residents of the area.

Many people believe that the rebuilding of New Orleans includes a significant shifting of resources and effort toward private ownership and operation of formerly public facilities and services. Charity Hospital has never reopened, and prior to Katrina, more than 500,000 people received out-patient services and vital health care annually.

If those displaced by Katrina are ever to return to their homes in New Orleans and if the city will ever rebuild the full richness of its character and its people, the gutting of those places and services that allow societal diversity -- race, class and otherwise -- must be halted.

Though the road show has a mission of bringing the message of HR676, single-payer universal health care (The National Health Insurance Act) to the people of the area, the issues of homelessness and lack of public facilities serving the poor and uninsured often go hand-in-hand with a lack of access to health care and other issues surrounding poverty. Donna Smith, who appears in 'SiCKO,' is on the road show team that also includes Liv Boykins, special assistant to Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, Julia Atkins of Florida, Joe Friendly of New York City and Bill Hill of Tucson. The team pulled into New Orleans after visiting cities in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

More than two years ago, Hurricane Katrina and the levy breaches that followed claimed the lives of thousands in New Orleans as a horrified world watched. Though the FEMA debacle and the 'Heckuva job Brownie' moments made us all ashamed of the U.S. government's response to the disaster, the continued failure of the local, state and federal government responses now cry out for more than shame and outrage -- and most especially for action.

Brad Ott of New Orleans leads The Committee for the Reopening of Charity Hospital, and he explained after the viewing of SiCKO on Saturday evening at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center that one of the efforts to reopen Charity includes will include bringing a class action legal case on behalf of those who now find themselves unable to access health care and who were formerly patients at Charity Hospital. Ott is looking for plaintiffs in the case and urges those who may be interested to contact him for more information.

Additional efforts to stop the demolition of public housing continue as well. For more information on that effort in new Orleans, go to JusticeForNewOrleans.org.

The SiCKO Cure National Road Show team pushes off for Tallahasee next. For more information on the tour and its stops, please visit healthcare-now.org. The road show is being co-sponsored by Healthcare-Now, the California Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, and other groups along the way.

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