March 22, 2008

POP says, “Save Our Hospitals!”

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I was in Plainfield last weekend when it seemed like the entire city turned out to demonstrate against the for-profit Solaris Healthcare corporation's plans to shut down the more than 130 year-old Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. The crowd that Steve Hatcher, chairman of the Plainfield Branch of the People's Organization for Progress calculated at 1,000 was both large and diverse. From elderly recovered cardiac patients who owed their very lives to the care they'd received to the young cheerleaders pictured above, from the wealthy of the nearby Crescent Historic District to working class African-American and Latina/o communities that make up approximately 89% of the municipality, every sector of the community was represented.

An older white woman at the demonstration asked me, with genuine curiosity, why the People's Organization for Progress had organized this action. My guess is that her only previous exposure to POP had come through our monthly picketline at the so-called Military Career Center on Plainfield's Front Street (in the Latina/o community) or our reputation for fighting against police assaults on African Americans and other people of color. (Four members of the local branch recently had all charges dropped after being arrested for holding an anti-police brutality banner in front of City Hall.)

But POP has included healthcare among our Core Demands for more than twenty years. So fighting hospital closings is not simply something POP does, it is part of who we are. We have been in the middle of organizing against a wave of hospital closings in Northern New Jersey that has hit Orange Memorial, Irvington General, Montclair Community Hospital, Mountainside, as well as St. James (a POP-supported protest is shown below) and Columbus.

While the Democratic Party's presidential contenders vie and debate over which of them has a more thorough going healthcare platform, while the left decries the fact that neither front-runner Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton have pledged their support for true universal single-payer healthcare, the day-to-day needs of the great majority of people are somehow getting lost in the shuffle.

But local community-based hospitals are being bought-up and shut-down by large for-profit medical centers or the same huge insurance corporations that view healthcare as a business instead of a right. Since around the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, New Jersey witnessed local community-based hospitals close at a frightening rate. Organizing to stop this trend is literally a life-or-death issue to working people in this state, and around the country.


bendygirl said...

California Nurses went out on strike and one of their issues has been the closing of hospitals in poor neighborhoods. Looks as if this is a nationwide issue.

Rahim on the Docks said...

Yes, it is. For another analysis of the depth of this issue from the perspective of the labor movement, check out this 'blog by a friend who is both the Local Union president at GE Aircraft Engine plant in Lynn, MA and president of the Central Labor Council on the North Shore of Boston (see Why Not Health Care?)