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  Public Employee Press

PEP Dec 2006
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Activists hold vigil for threatened health safety net

Carmen Charles, president of Municipal Hospital Employees Local 420 (left), and Gladys Dixon, chair of the Community Advisory Board at Coler-Goldwater Hospital listen to speakers at the candlelight vigil at City Hall Park.

DC 37 was part of a large and diverse coalition of over 100 labor unions, health-care activists and religious groups that converged on City Hall Park on the evening of Oct. 26 for a candlelight vigil to demand that the city’s health care safety net remain free of any hospital closings.

The threat of hospital closings looms as the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, a panel put together by outgoing Gov. George E. Pataki, prepares its final proposals.

“My mother is a patient at Queens Hospital Center, so I have a stake in this,” said Municipal Hospital Employees Local 420 President Carmen Charles at the vigil. “We have to fight this fight for the voiceless and for the insured,” she said.

“I had to be here tonight and stand up and be counted,” said Aida Brown, a Clerical Associate at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn and member of Local 1549. “We’re short of staff there. We need more doctors and clerical staff.”

Pataki established the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century last year. The panel’s mission is to help trim costs by recommending hospital closings and cutbacks in Medicaid spending. The governor proposes eliminating up to one-third of all hospital beds in the state — about 20,000 of the 62,000 hospital beds — to save Medicaid dollars.

Save Our Safety Net, the coalition of labor union and health care activists battling the commission and the possible hospital closings, supports Senate Bill 6591, which would make the commission more accountable and change its evaluation process.

The bill was introduced by Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, who was elected lieutenant governor on Nov. 7, and 21 other Democratic senators. The proposed legislation would extend the evaluation process into 2007, when Paterson’s running mate and the new governor, Eliot Spitzer, takes office.

As PEP went to press the “Hospital Closing Commission,” as activists call Pataki’s commission, was preparing to release its final recommendations, which will automatically become law and be implemented unless the Legislature votes to reject its entire package of proposals.




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