By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
At a series of NYC Health+Hospitals annual meetings in May and June, hundreds of union members and residents sent a powerful message: Do more to save public hospitals!
Activists reminded NYC H+H of its mission: to provide quality health care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
As NYC H+H struggles to retain safe staffing levels, Leapfroggroup.com surveys show New York City’s public hospitals consistently provide better care than private hospitals. Employees said they work harder and longer with much less support, fewer supplies and dwindling staff due to attrition.
“Working in constant crisis mode only leads to burnout,” said Nate Franco, a Local 768 member who spoke at Harlem Hospital’s packed forum on June 7.
Dedicated NYC Health + Hospitals employees have staved off life-threatening outbreaks of Zika, Ebola, West Nile and Legionnaires disease, and responded to national disasters such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Anthrax, and Super Storm Sandy.
Members from DC 37 locals 371, 420, 768, 1189, 1549, health care professionals, community and elected leaders voiced their concerns over the renowned public health system’s future.
The beleaguered agency carries a $1.8 billion debt and competes with private hospitals for Medicaid and other state funding. NYC H+H cares for over 1.4 million patients a year, and over 500,000 undocumented and indigent people.
“As we struggle to transition from hospital mode to outpatient clinics– a major hurdle necessary for Health + Hospitals to continue to exist– all stakeholders need to be at the table: labor, management, the community and our elected leaders,” said DC 37’s Barbara Edmonds. “We need to renew our commitment to healthcare. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life was saved at this very hospital, so eloquently said: ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.’”