Tag Archives: Cook County Hospital

Workers, Patients, Youth Unite to Fight: Racist Hospital Cuts — Murder the Nazi Way

CHICAGO, March 21 — Hospital workers on the picket line noticed an older man marching with them shaking his fist as they all yelled, “They say cut back, we say FIGHT BACK!” He was wearing a hospital gown under his coat. The dozens of hospital workers, community members and students protesting in front of Stroger Hospital of Cook County had attracted some patients, too. The protest was sparked by the plans of the County Board to close two of the three hospitals in Chicago’s public system, turning the patients out to fend for themselves.

PL’ers at the hospital, meeting with Coalition Against The Cuts in Healthcare (CATCH), had heard the most dramatic aspect of this particular cutback at a meeting weeks earlier. A nurse from Oak Forest Hospital, one of the hospitals about to be closed, described the plight of patients in the chronic ventilator unit, some of whom had been living there attached to breathing machines for many years. “They’re more like family than patients to me,” she explained. “We’ve been together for years.” These patients had been given a deadline of the end of the month to find themselves a nursing home to be transferred to. “This unit is closing,” they were told.

“I’ve known many patients from here who left for nursing homes,” said Michael Yanul, an Oak Forest ventilator patient with muscular dystrophy who tells his story on YouTube. “They all died. And that’s what frightens me.”

‘Administrative Euthanasia’

Hospital workers showed up at board meetings, calling the planned hospital closures murder and pointing out the racist nature of this attack on facilities serving mostly black and immigrant patients. One doctor pointed out the similarity of these deadly cuts to the way the Germans freed up hospital beds in preparation for World War II by gassing the chronic patients in public hospitals in a program they called “euthanasia.” The doctor suggested the label “administrative euthanasia” to describe the County’s cut-back plan.

The nurse from the CATCH meeting testified before the County Board Finance Committee and held up pictures of patients slated for eviction from the ventilator unit. “These people can’t be here to speak for themselves and so I told them I could tell their story here. Closing this unit is tantamount to murder!” When she finished speaking the hundreds of people in the jammed meeting room stood up and applauded. When she came to work the next day, she was sent home on “administrative leave” for “violating the patients’ confidentiality.”

Others who had heard this nurse at the CATCH meeting were furious and started circulating a petition defending her. They also went to support her at her disciplinary hearing, but her union, wishing to avoid “interference by radicals,” arranged with management to move the hearing 30 miles away to another venue at the last minute.

Solidarity Backs Nurse

Three other hospital workers came up with another way to show their solidarity. They went to Oak Forest Hospital during visiting hours and talked with staff and patients on the long-term vent unit. Both staff and patients wanted to help the nurse who was wrongly accused of “violating patient confidentiality.” The ventilator patients gladly agreed to sign consent forms to be photographed again for the purposes of getting their story out at an upcoming CATCH demonstration in front of Stroger Hospital. One man, David Moreno, paralyzed from the neck down, held the ballpoint pen in his teeth to make an “X” on the consent form.

The afternoon of the picket line, teachers brought along their high school students to learn first-hand about the nature of health care in Chicago. Once a hospital worker explained the story behind the huge faces (the patient photos had been made into 3-foot posters) he said, “They’re doing that?! Putting those people out, when they are on breathing machines? Give me that poster!” This youth had one of the strongest voices leading the chants. (Hear and see the demo at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLtc_DyJ5X4.) The demonstration involved a number of our friends and long-time CHALLENGE readers. One doctor who participated was later called into his boss’s office for questioning but once he showed the signed consent forms, the matter was dropped.

On March 21st the Illinois Health Facilities Board held their meeting to decide whether or not to grant a permit for the closing of Oak Forest Hospital of the Cook County Health System. Two busloads of hospital workers and community members sat and stood all around the large meeting room holding protest signs with pictures of the long-term patients. The protesters were silent at first but then, the same nurse (“They’re more like family”) stepped out and asked for permission to address the Board.

‘Are you going to kill these people?’

When she was denied, the number of voices protesting increased. “Are you just going to kill these people?” “How come you can find money to give the administrators raises but you can’t afford to care for patients?” The Chairman had to recess the meeting to restore order. In the end, the Facilities Board decided to deny Cook County permission to close Oak Forest Hospital, telling them to return in six months with a clear plan that would avoid harm to uninsured patients in Cook County. The protesters cheered.

We all know this is not the end, but it gives us time to organize a bigger fight-back for the next round. From the perspective of communists involved in this fight, it has energized our collective, activated some who have been passive and helped develop several less-experienced comrades. One friend, a health worker who has met with our PLP club, said, “What I like about you guys is that you actually do stuff.”

Recruiting new Party members in the struggle is our best strategy against the fascism that is taking shape in health care as it is throughout the U.S. in this run-up to the next World War. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but there are lots of workers out there who, like that nurse, will show their hidden leadership qualities as events unfold.

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Sellout Unions Battle for ‘Right’ to Screw Rebellious Hospital Workers

CHICAGO, IL October 9 – Cook County health care workers are in open rebellion against the SEIU union leadership. Class hatred has been brewing since SEIU defended County President Todd Stroger and his racist hatchet man Dr. Simon, as they closed half the health clinics that served more than one million uninsured workers in 2007. It cost us over 2,000 jobs and 100,000 fewer patient visits. This was a blatantly racist attack as 82% of our patients, and most of the workers, are black, Latin and Asian.

Now “safety-net” hospitals, like Michael Reese are closing. And with the current Wall Street meltdown, things are going to get a lot worse. Workers are under attack from the racist profit system that is expanding its trillion-dollar oil war in Iraq-Afghanistan–Pakistan, carrying out racist terror immigration raids, eliminating the second shift at the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant next month and having made one-out-of-every-four CTA bus drivers unable to support their families on new part-time schedules.

Just as politicians and preachers try to misdirect rebellions against police terror, and the IAM union leaders try to control the 5-week strike of 27,000 Boeing workers, misleaders are channeling this rebellion into a campaign to replace SEIU with the Caregivers Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU), led by the California Nurses’ Association (CNA). The struggle between the two unions has been growing around the country and has led to hundreds of SEIU members crashing a banquet at the Labor Notes conference in Detroit last spring. One SEIU member died of a heart attack in the melee.
In part, this is AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s revenge after his protégé Andy Stern led SEIU and a dozen other unions out of the labor federation two years ago. They smell weakness at Cook County and are spending lots of money to defeat SEIU, including nightly catered dinners for the workers at a nearby hotel.

Petitions have been filed with the Illinois Labor Board (ILB) for elections in all four bargaining units. In response, County bosses are trying to buy SEIU some votes by finally paying the upgrade we “won” in the last contract, almost four years ago. It’s unlikely the $14 “upgrade” will put down the rebellion.

While the mutiny of workers at Stroger Hospital and other County facilities is good, trading one set of pro-capitalist union leaders for another will only lead to disappointment, especially in the midst of widening war and deepening economic crises. The real lasting victory will be increasing the readership of CHALLENGE and recruiting new members to PLP who will help build a revolution to replace this exploitative system.

No matter who wins the White House, the racist rulers will need trillions more to expand their oil wars and rescue Wall Street. A struggle against racist unemployment guided by communist politics, that unites County, CTA and Ford workers with immigrant workers and unemployed youth can build the revolutionary communist PLP and open the door to revolution!

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‘Need Bloodshed to Bring Changes’

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.

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