CHICAGO, IL February 29 ––“Why are all these people clapping? This isn’t a victory! It’s an assassination of the working class. It’s going to take bloodshed to get the kind of changes we need!” That’s what a black worker with 30 years at the County hospital said about the new funding “compromise” reached by the Cook County Board of Commissioners. They agreed to raise the sales tax in return of giving up control of the Bureau of Health services to an “independent,” more professional Board of Directors.
The applause she was referring was coming from the SEIU, AFSCME and NNOC (Nursing) union leaders, and the Medical Staff (doctors), who fell in line behind the racist budget cutters Stroger and Simon, and claim to have saved the County healthcare system! The County hasn’t been “saved.” It is more than half-closed. All the school-based clinics are closed, Provident is downsized and Oak Forest decimated. Patients wait in the ER for more than 24 hours for a bed on the overcrowded wards while inpatient beds are closed because the bosses cut more than 2,000 jobs. The Stroger pharmacy is down to one shift, patients aren’t getting discharge medications, and poor mostly black and Latin women wait months to get urgently needed tests after abnormal Pap smears.
Patient visits dropped by more than 100,000 after last years’ cuts, and there are more than 1.2 million uninsured in Cook County. The County patient population is 82% black and Latin. Like home foreclosures, lay-offs, rotten schools and overcrowded jails, black, Latin and immigrant workers are taking the bulk of these racist health care cuts. The $2 billion-a-week war economy is balanced on the backs of the poorest, most vulnerable populations.
And all the talk about a “more professional Board” running the County “more efficiently” is the new language of fascist healthcare. We should find no satisfaction that the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, the Chicago Federation of Labor or liberals from the Health and Medicine Research Group are going to be governing the Health Bureau. The only reform coming our way is increasing and expanding wars, racism and fascist terror.
The “independent governing board” was called for by the Northwestern University report issued about three years ago. The authors reflected the dominant ruling class outlook and included Michelle Obama, who pulls in $300,000 sitting on the Board of University of Chicago Hospitals. Cook County workers and patients are about to get perhaps a taste of what Obama’s healthcare plan really is.
We can’t reform the racist profit system. We need communist revolution to, as the worker said, get what we need! No interim governing board of bosses and union hacks, or Democratic Party candidates can bring about that kind of “change.” PLP has been the only force exposing this “compromise” charade, moving some workers into action and standing up to the bosses and union hacks. CHALLENGE is reaching a few more eager hands and we are gearing up to bring workers and patients to May Day.