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International Health Workers for People Over Profit
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Issue #7
Date May 16, 2009

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May Day in Belfast

by Patricia Campbell - Northern Ireland

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 As people across the world celebrated May Day, our new health care union, Universi, joined hundreds of marching workers in Belfast on Saturday 2nd May.

Carrying placards with the message, ‘Protect our Health Service. Stop the Cuts,’ we joined other unions and workers in a colourful parade that marched through the city centre.

Like any other city on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Belfast was full of the hustle and bustle of busy shoppers, many of whom stopped to watch the demonstration.

This year’s May Day parade was larger than previous years, an indication that more people are ready to fight. Despite the different strands of left-leaning groups, all of our leaflets and messages bore the same principles – ‘Fight for every job’ and ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’

Universi is affiliated to the Independent Workers Union. While our unions marched in solidarity with all struggling workers, we have a special need to fight for our health service.

Our local government has made no secret of its plan to cut the health service budget by 3 percent over the next three years. They call it ‘efficiency savings.’ In Northern Ireland, we desperately need more investment in our health service, not cuts.

Front line health workers are being told, “We don’t have the resources.” What this really means is, "We will not resource this service." There is a difference between having no resources and deciding not to put resources into health care.

Recently, the Health Minister for the Republic of Ireland addressed the Irish Nursing Organisation, one of the Republic’s leading nursing unions. To a frosty reception, she urged the nurses to “separate personal grievances over pay cuts from professional concerns over patient care.” As if the two issues could be separated!

The Minister’s attempts to dodge the link between working conditions and patient care and to blame nurses for their ‘personal concerns' did not go down well.

We must not allow ourselves to be tricked by this type of management-speak. We must fight for what is right for ourselves and for our patients.

I am proud that our union, not yet a year old, brought our message to the streets of Belfast on May Day. We are stepping up to the mark and we are steadily growing. We will resist all cuts where ever we can, and we will urge others to have the confidence to do likewise.

Patricia Campbell works as a community psychiatric nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is also president of the Independent Workers Union of Ireland and a founder of the UNIVERSI health workers’ union.

 

The Best Medicine

by Susan Rosenthal – Canada

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 A spirited demonstration is the best medicine! Those daily deprivations, that churning anger and that sinking dread all vanish when you join scores of others, all yelling at the tops of your lungs, and the sound bounces off the buildings telling the whole world that you are FED UP and won’t take it any more.

That’s what thousands of people in cities across Ontario experienced on the April 18 Day of Protest against hospital cuts and closures. In the city of Guelph, 100 people picketed their local politician's office and then marched to the local hospital, holding a second rally to support hospital workers.

Until the late 1990s, Guelph had two acute-care hospitals. By 2001, there was only one. Subsequent cuts have left the Guelph General Hospital with 165 acute-care beds to serve a population of 135,000 people.

The emergency department is always jammed and suffers a constant backlog as patients wait for hospital beds. Nurses are caring for patients in hallways. Ambulances can't offload their patients because there is nowhere to put them. People are dying for lack of urgently-needed care.

The Guelph General has already lost its:
•    physiotherapy clinic
•    out-patient laboratory
•    diabetes education program
•    rehabilitation clinic
•    asthma clinic

And, on July 1, the hospital’s ambulatory pain clinic will close.

It won’t be long before there is no hospital at all.
P4180011.jpgRefusing to accept these losses, members of half a dozen unions, university students, community groups and just plain folks came out to protest.

Chanting “Whose Hospital? OUR Hospital,” “Reverse the Cuts; Fund our Hospital!” “Public Health Care, not Corporate Welfare” the demonstrators shouted their determination to defend their public healthcare system.

There were no long-winded speeches, the event lasted just one hour, it was a beautiful day, and everyone left high on the hope that together, we can make a difference.

Our challenge is to turn these small rallies into larger demonstrations of thousands and tens of thousands. That’s how we won medicare in the first place, and that’s how we will win it again.

Susan Rosenthal is a writer and physician. Read her article, The Fight to Save Ontario Hospitals

 

Luchas en Defensa de la Sanidad Pública en Europa

por Sergi Raventós - España

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Las movilizaciones en Francia contra la Ley Bachelot en Francia y  el rechazo al copago en la sanidad pública en Catalunya (Reino de España), son dos buenos ejemplos de las luchas que se están empezando a dar en defensa de la seguridad social, la red de hospitales públicos, los servicios públicos y el acceso a la salud para todos/as.

Estas movilizaciones no son ni serán fenómenos aislados en Europa, puesto que en mitad de la gran crisis capitalista y a menos de dos meses para las elecciones al parlamento europeo, la Comisión Europea1 considera que el tan criticado y cuestionado Tratado de Lisboa (bloqueado por los irlandeses) aporta respuestas adecuadas a la crisis económica y financiera actual.

El Tratado de Lisboa es el gran acuerdo europeo firmado en Lisboa el 13 de diciembre de 2007 entre 27 países de la Unión Europea (UE) para abordar cuestiones de la UE y sus ciudadanos como la política energética, salud pública, protección civil, cambio climático, servicios de interés general, investigación, política espacial, cohesión territorial, política comercial, ayuda humanitaria, deporte, turismo y cooperación administrativa, etc.

Las diferentes reformas de los sistemas de salud en los diferentes países de la UE van dirigidas a la mercantilización y a la privatización de servicios. Las reformas del sector hospitalario tienden a transferir actividades rentables al sector privado. Es el caso de Francia, con la Ley Bachelot, que pretende integrar la salud a la mundialización liberal. Por ejemplo, la Générale de Santé que gestiona 147 clínicas en Francia y que depende de capitales italianos, aprovechándose de la seguridad social francesa, podría deslocalizar su sede a Polonia y así conseguir ventajas tributarias y de exenciones fiscales.

Los médicos en Francia han decidido salir a la calle el 28 de abril, junto con todo el personal hospitalario. Una primicia pues la jornada unitaria del 28 de abril verá desfilar médicos no sindicados, y también sindicados (FO, CPH, INPH, AMUF, SNPHAR) y el personal paramédico (CGT, SUD, CFDT, CFTC, FO). Será un acontecimiento histórico en la medida que desfilaran juntos todo el personal hospitalario, desde los agentes a los médicos, pasando por las enfermeras, auxiliares de enfermería e incluso los cuadros ejecutivos, sin olvidar a los pacientes.

Otra respuesta interesante a las agresiones a la sanidad pública en Europa es en Catalunya (Reino de España). Desde hace unos años, diversas instancias gubernamentales reclaman aportaciones económicas por parte de la ciudadanía (que pasa a ser considerada como “cliente”) para hacer “sostenible” y “modernizar” el sistema nacional de salud. Es lo que se conoce como “co-pagos”. O sea, después de pagar nuestros impuestos volver a pagar otra vez!

Ahora bien, en una encuesta publicada en el periódico EL PAÍS del pasado día 5 de Abril y realizada por la Coordinadora de Usuarios de la Sanidad, dos tercios de los entrevistados se declaraban en contra de pagar una pequeña parte de los servicios que ofrece la sanidad pública. La gente parece que no está por la labor del copago.

La presentación el pasado 19 de febrero de un nuevo movimiento por la sanidad pública en Catalunya, DEMPEUS, fue un rotundo éxito de público, con representantes de diferentes sectores sociales, culturales y artísticos.

Tal vez en un contexto de elecciones europeas y en un marco de una crisis colosal como la que estamos padeciendo sea un terreno abonado para hacer converger luchas y defender el sistema de salud pública. Sería muy conveniente.

Notes

1. la institución políticamente independiente que representa y defiende los intereses de la UE en su conjunto y propone legislación, políticas y programas de acción y es responsable de aplicar las decisiones del Parlamento y del Consejo europeo.

2.  DEMPEUS en catalán sería una expresión equivalente a EN PIE en castellano.

Sergi Raventós es Diplomado en Trabajo Social y Licenciado en Sociologia. Actualmente realiza el doctorado en Sociología y trabaja en una Fundación sociosanitaria de Salud mental en Barcelona (Catalunya)

 

IHWPOP Joins Israel Boycott

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On February 8, 2009, International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP) voted to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel. We oppose Israel’s repression of the Palestinians and support a single state in Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all.

For more information on the BDS campaign go to US Campaign to End the Israeli Occcupation 

 

All of the material in this newsletter is made available to the public under the terms of the Creative Commons Code. Readers are welcome to share and use this material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they acknowledge the author(s) and International Health Workers for People Over Profit

 

 



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