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.
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER – Being hungry for change is not a new condition for any of us who are struggling with the broken U.S. health care system. Many of us have been physically, mentally and emotionally hungry for many years. And no one has changed the conditions causing that hunger for millions of Americans.
But in one program area, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), we seemed to understand all of the issues. Healthy kids are better for the nation. Many parents work but cannot afford insurance coverage. Sick children dying due to lack of health care access that the nation can afford is really bad PR. So Congress passed that reform in the 1990s, and low-income, working-poor families were able to get coverage for their kids.
In recent weeks, Congress has been trying to reauthorize the SCHIP program. The first bill passed and signed expanded coverage to include 10 million kids, but the president and his loyal followers didn’t like that. First they cited worries about pushing families off private insurance, and then later the tobacco tax included to pay for the expansion was cited as just another tax-and-spend initiative. The president vetoed the bill despite widespread public support for the program and its expansion. And Congress did not have the votes to override that veto.
I have to note that on the same day he vetoed the SCHIP bill, George W. Bush asked Congress for $46 billion more for the Iraq war. So much for objecting to spending.
People protested from coast-to-coast. But that protesting has, so far, not made the difference in this battle for the health of our kids.
Now, Congress has submitted yet another SCHIP bill for the president’s signature. They changed a few items, but not enough according to the president. The second version of the bill will likely also be vetoed.
A few of my friends from ‘SiCKO’ and I decided we wanted to take additional action to support the passage of SCHIP, and we decided a hunger strike would be our protest. Adrian Campbell of Michigan, Reggie Cervantes of Oklahoma (9/11 rescue worker) and I began our liquid fasts on November 1, at midnight. We are taking in only water and non-caloric fluids (like broth).
All three of us know the hunger of choosing between health care and food and other life essentials, and each of us still confronts those trade-offs every day even when not fasting. Sometimes people mistakenly think that just because we were lucky enough to be on the screen in ‘SICKO,’ we were actually lifted out of our struggles. Having one’s story told does not in itself fix the problems. We are all hard-working women who are fighters and survivors.
But we’re staying hungry until there is a SCHIP reauthorization. We will break our strike when Congress passes and the president signs a new bill. If they don’t do that before the holidays, we ask them to temporarily fund the program and then go right back at it immediately upon their return. If they agree to do so, we will break this strike. We object to any measure that would simply fund the program at current levels for a whole year without enhancement just to break the government deadlock. The American people – and our kids – deserve better.
What's our stake in this? Between us, Adrian, Reggie and I have nine children and 13 grands. The time has come for mothers to take a stand. And we are doing so.
Our hunger strike will continue until November 21, unless Congress and the president act sooner. The risk we are taking seems like nothing compared to what millions face in our health care system every day, and we pray that our government recognizes that and acts sooner rather than later.
Labels: Adrian Campbell, Donna Smith, Reggie Cervantes, SCHIP