We reproduce the healthcare workers call first published on Labor Notes.
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE DAY OF ACTION ON TAX DAY, APRIL 15
TELL THE WORLD: #THESYSTEMISBROKEN
We are health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Please support our National Day of Action on Tax Day, April 15, to tell the world that #TheSystemIsBroken and demand that we reorganize the U.S. health care system to prioritize the interests of patients over those of billionaires and corporations.
Our private, for-profit health care system has left us with a deep scarcity of resources and properly trained health care workers. We are not heroes and we did not enlist to die in our jobs due to government inaction and corporate greed. The pandemic has clearly exposed why critical infrastructure, including our country’s health care, cannot be left to the market.
The mass graves being dug for tomorrow are made deeper by the political choices made today. We call for the U.S. health care system to be treated like road maintenance, garbage disposal, education, fire protection, and any other vital component of our social infrastructure. The entire system, from the production of drugs and medical supplies to hospitals and health clinics, should be nationalized and publicly administered on behalf of our communities rather than privately owned and operated for the benefit of billionaires and corporations. Faced with a lack of gloves, masks, beds and staff, both Spain and Ireland have nationalized their health care systems to better coordinate the distribution of critical resources.
Our government must put patients over profits by directing and coordinating the manufacture and distribution of vital medical resources and guaranteeing that everyone is provided the quality health care they need with Medicare for All.
EXAMPLES OF ACTIONS YOUR GROUPS CAN TAKE:
- At Jacobi hospital in New York City, nurses organized a short rally and press conference after their shift ended. They placed protest signs on the ground six feet apart and had everyone go one at a time to pick them up. They then went one by one to the microphone to speak to the press.
- PASNAP (Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals) has created a Hospital Response Report Card. Union members assessed each of their hospitals along seven areas of concern during the pandemic. At union-organized press conferences, these report cards are updated regularly to keep the public informed about the state of issues in each facility.
- Nurses in a Massachusetts hospital organized a gown-making party, where they all got 39-gallon trash bags and practiced turning them into a protective covering so that they have a “backup plan for when we actually run out of gowns.” They took photos and shared on social media.
- Nurses at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City organized a press conference outside the hospital, holding the photographs of coworkers who had died of COVID-19 after not being provided the PPE they needed. They held signs saying “We won’t be your body bags.”
- Nurses at Provident Hospital were given 2 days notice that their South Side Chicago ER was going to be closed for a month. This pandemic is wrecking havoc upon African-Americans in particular, so they immediately went into action. They have held a protest, released a video, and started a petition.
- Nurses in Buffalo, New York organized a car rally to draw attention to their demand that the U.S. government use the Defense Production Act to produce more PPE. They plastered signs all over their cars and drove around Niagara Square honking their horns. They then held a press conference, which was also livestreamed on Facebook.
- Health care workers at Harlem Hospital organized a press conference, using a rope with knots in it every six feet to ensure distancing. Nurses then went one at a time to a microphone to share their stories.
We demand that every health care worker be provided the PPE they need to keep themselves, their families, and their patients safe: #PPEoverProfits. Using the Defense Production Act, we can use our country’s manufacturing capacity to make gowns, N-95 masks, and ventilators. It is not enough for some private companies to voluntarily begin manufacturing the resources we need. We need the government to mandate that companies begin producing them and that we produce a surplus not only for the United States but for all the other countries that face a scarcity.
We need coordination of resources, not competition. Hospital systems and states should not be in competition with one another for supplies. Nobody should be afraid of not getting the care they need because of where they live or because their hospital is not at the front of the line for ventilators. We need a system for distributing PPE and other supplies based on need rather than who has the deepest pockets or favorable political connections. We know that the disease strikes particular regions before others. For example, New York City is hit hard now. Rather than states stockpiling resources and waiting their turn, those resources should be sent to where they are needed. It is essential that frontline workers and their unions be at the table with state and federal government officials to ensure that resources are distributed to the hospitals and areas that need it most, when they need it.
We demand mandatory safe staffing in every hospital. Health care workers are being assigned far more high-acuity patients than they can safely care for. Health care workers at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace Hospital, for example, have sometimes had as few as two nurses caring for 26 patients on 10 ventilators. These courageous workers staged a work stoppage on April 6 to alert the public to the dire situation. Frontline workers should be running the staffing offices and determining the staffing levels appropriate in our workplaces.
We must train nurses now. Due to lack of PPE and a big drop in lucrative elective procedures, many hospitals across the country are laying off nurses and other staff at the exact moment we should be training them and preparing them to provide critical care to highly infectious patients. Nurses cannot be expected to give critical care without proper training.
Child care for health care workers. Daycares and schools have made the appropriate decision to close, but this has left health care workers, who are often working long hours for many days in a row, with the challenge of finding others who will risk exposing themselves to the virus by watching their children. This is not a personal problem, but a social issue to be addressed by the government and our employers with free, universal child care for health care workers.
House health care workers in union hotels to protect their families. Due to the lack of testing and PPE, every time health care workers go home to their families they risk exposing them to the virus.
Medicare for All. With layoffs skyrocketing, millions of people are left without insurance for themselves and their families. No one who seeks the medical care they need and deserve in this moment should be left with a bill. Hospitals should not be making decisions to cut costs in fear of the impending budget crunch they will face. The solution is simple and clear: we need a single-payer system and we need it now.
Capitalism won’t heal this crisis. Left Voice is highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers and the oppressed. Send us your stories and experiences at [email protected]