CHICAGO, IL February 8 — “My patients are dying! My patients are dying because of your racist cutbacks,” declared a Latino health care worker who treats TB patients. “You’re a murderer and I charge you with genocide!” was her “greeting” to fascist Dr. Robert Simon, interim health chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services (CCBHS). She stormed out as he, a guest of SEIU Local 20, began to speak at their Town Hall meeting.
Simon said, “I’m not a politician,” but another worker shouted from the floor, “You’re a racist murderer.” Simon, who once said, “To me, society wastes enormous energy, money and resources on [the homeless],” announced that the County health system was “on the verge of collapse if any further cuts are made.” He was supporting SEIU’s push for a tax increase.
The commissioners who approved over $100 million in racist cutbacks during last year’s budget crisis sat on SEIU’s stage then and now. With Simon wielding the knife, they closed half of the 26 neighborhood clinics and laid off 1,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.
Meanwhile, as Barack Obama tours the country with hypocritical calls for “change” and “healthcare for all,” he has done nothing against the racist cutbacks that are killing patients and closing public hospitals in his own neighborhood.
More cuts are threatened for March 1. County Finance chief John Daley said he was proposing 13% cuts ($108 million), closing Provident and Oak Forest hospitals, all remaining clinics and a center that treats one-third of the area’s HIV patients. Only Stroger Hospital and the Cermak clinic that treats County Jail inmates will remain.
A young worker yelled, “Are you saying we have to raise taxes on the poorest people, our patients, in order to give them health care?” “That’s right,” Daley replied.
Over 1.2 million people are uninsured in Cook County. Our patients are 85% black and Latino. No one knows how many patients have died, but last year’s cuts cost almost 2,000 jobs. Stroger patients aren’t getting discharge medications and the pharmacy is down to one shift.
Less than 100 people attended the meeting, with only a few from Stroger, even though it’s nearby. Most workers couldn’t come because cutbacks have generated outrageous workloads. Many who could weren’t interested because they have no respect for the union leadership and the local politicians it serves.
PLP members at Stroger organized some workers to confront the racist budget-cutters face-to-face. The bosses and union leaders got a small taste of the workers’ and patients’ hatred for them. Most important, we and our co-workers distributed hundreds of leaflets at work, showing how racist terror and cutbacks are financing the two-BILLION-dollar-a-week war in Iraq.
While we can’t stop the current slaughter in Iraq or Chicago with reforms, by fighting back we can expand the base for CHALLENGE, strengthen our ties to workers and patients and build a fighting PLP that will eventually lead the working class from fascist terror and war to communist revolution.
Charity Hospital in New Orleans and King Hospital in Los Angeles are CLOSED! Grady Hospital in Atlanta is in critical condition. The CCBHS is already more than half closed, and Bush’s Medicare and Medicaid cuts will mean another $60 million cut on July 1! We’re in a fight for our lives. Build PLP and a mass May Day!
RACIST BUDGET CUTS MURDER BLACK AND LATIN WOMEN
Because of budget cuts and staff reductions, almost 1,000 women with abnormal Pap smears, unusual bleeding, pelvic masses and other symptoms are waiting months to see gynecologists in the Cook County health system. The longer they’re forced to wait, the greater the risk of severe pain, cancers and life-threatening emergencies. A May 2007 report from the Chicago Foundation for Women reports more than 450,000 women in this area are uninsured, and many depend on county hospitals and clinics. The vast majority are black and Latino.
A young West Side black woman had a Pap smear performed at a clinic last April; learned in June it was positive, suggesting possible cervical cancer; and has been unable to get an appointment at Stroger Hospital for follow-up tests and evaluation. Another patient had a positive Pap smear in September and just got word she could see a Stroger gynecologist in April.
Last year, half of the community and urgent-care clinics were closed, leading to even longer waits, patients being harassed by bill-collection agencies and rumored threats of immigration raids. As a result, there were 100,000 fewer patient visits last year than in 2006, when there were 101 doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants providing basic medical services at the clinics. Today there are only 44 medical providers working longer hours, to serve hundreds of thousands of patients.