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International Health Workers for People Over Profit
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Vol.2, No.1
January 12, 2010

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   Obama's Health Care Disaster

             by Eileen Prendiville - USA

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 As Obama completes his first year in office, elected on a promise of change, the United States has become increasingly polarized, especially when it comes to healthcare reform.

After months of discussion, rallies, town hall meetings and protests, the House and Senate finally passed their respective healthcare bills.



Some are celebrating in the belief that, despite their flaws, these bills will at least provide insurance for some of the 47 million currently uninsured and impose new regulations on insurers so they cannot refuse people with pre-existing medical conditions and they can no longer impose a lifetime cap on medical payments. The celebrators argue that major compromises were necessary to get any healthcare bill through Congress so that President Obama could fulfill a major campaign promise.

Others are outraged at legislation that strengthens the profit-making insurance giants.

People will be forced to purchase high-cost, low-coverage policies. Those who don't will be fined. The proposed industry regulations offer major loopholes and no means of enforcement. The legislation attacks women’s rights by prohibiting any government-subsidized programs from providing coverage for abortion services. And the Senate version taxes existing workplace medical benefits, affecting one in every four unionized workers.

National Nurses United and Physicians for a National Health Program, strong advocates for single-payer (government-funded) healthcare, condemned both bills, warning that they will worsen the healthcare crisis. The proposed legislation fails to provide care on the basis of need and will plunge more people into debt while delivering millions of new customers to boost the profits of the insurance industry. 

Health insurance companies’ stock soared as it became clear that the public option was basically finished – seriously weakened in the House bill and absent in the final Senate version.

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A robust public option would have pressured private insurers to contain costs. Without a public option, health insurance costs will continue to climb unchecked, with high deductibles preventing many from seeking preventative care and from seeking treatment until they are critically ill.

Nurses witness the inequities of our broken healthcare system every day, and most recognize that a Medicare-for-all type of system is the only way to fix it, by providing healthcare for all.

National Nurses United, which held its founding convention in September of 2009, is a 150,000 strong union of direct-care RNs that was formed from several different nurses' unions across the country. One of the key goals of NNU is to win a single-payer system.

Donna Smith, a community organizer with the California Nurses’ Association, who appeared in Michael Moore’s film SiCKO, recently proposed that legislators reveal who funds them in the same way that athletes wear clothing identifying their sponsors.

Healthcare industry lobbyists spent upwards of $1.3 million per day to make sure that reform legislation would not compromise their very profitable bottom lines. Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, received substantial sums from the healthcare industry and returned the favor by refusing to put single-payer on the table for discussion.

It’s difficult not to get discouraged, because we have worked so hard to get a healthcare system that provides for every man, woman and child, the way all other industrialized nations do. However, this healthcare crisis is not going away, and we will keep fighting for healthcare that is provided as a right, not a privilege.

Eileen Prendiville is a staff nurse in a San Francisco hospital and a member of the California Nurses Association, a member union of National Nurses United


The Sickening Business of Psychology

                        by Liv Capozzi - Canada

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In January of 2008, I met a young psychologist who had recently completed his doctorate and registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. I liked him immediately and was excited to work for him. I had been looking for a supervisor who was passionate about his work and would support my clinical development.

I had worked for him for less than a month when he brought another therapist into his practice. Within three months there were four of us, and within six months there were more than I could keep track of. The more therapists worked for him, the more money he made.

As the months passed, I became busier and busier, and I saw him less and less. Conversations about the clients’ needs began to be replaced by conversations about the business of making money.

The first such conversation took place when I recommended against providing treatment for a client who had suffered a car accident two months earlier. He felt little physical pain and had returned to work and social activities. He denied feeling anxious or having any other emotional difficulties. He was articulate and insightful and quite clear that he was not interested in psychological treatment.

When the client’s lawyer read my report, he called the clinic and yelled at the clinic manager. The clinic manager then called my supervisor to inform him that a diagnosis and treatment were necessary. My supervisor, in turn, called me.

When I explained why I had recommended against treatment, my supervisor sheepishly argued that “everyone can benefit from psychotherapy.”

While I wish that everyone had access to psychotherapy, I also believe that people have the right to decide whether or not they want treatment. I had been working under the assumption that my first priority was to provide mental health care. This phone call made me realize that there were other interests at stake.

Over the months, similar phone calls followed. It became clear that my continued employment depended on keeping the clinics and the lawyers happy. The lawyers wanted their clients to appear as impaired as possible. The clinics wanted to maximize their profits by maximizing treatment and keeping the lawyers, their referral source, happy.

After each phone call I found myself compromising, more and more. I wanted to keep my job, and this was lucrative work. But I was beginning to lose sight of who I was and what I believed.

Like most health workers, I entered my profession to help people. Instead, I was helping the lawyers, the clinic and my supervisor to get rich.

The conflict between my ideals and my work was aggravated by the contrast between the economic suffering of my clients and the large amounts of money that were being made off their suffering. These contradictions affected my personal life. I had no energy. I felt pessimistic and powerless.

Finally, I decided to quit.

I now have a job that is not so profit-oriented. I don’t have to worry about management's or lawyers' interests, so I can put my clients' interests first. I can concentrate on providing mental health care, and I feel a whole lot better.

My concern is that profitable psychotherapy “mills” are highly competitive, and it might not be long before there is no humane alternative for clients and health workers like me.

Liv Capozzi is a psychotherapist practicing in Toronto, Ontario.

 

  Gaza - One Year Later

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 Marwan A. Diab - Palestine

The Israeli massacre of Gaza ended one year ago. But it is not over. We continue to suffer grief, pain, destruction and a seemingly never-ending siege, bombardment and blockade.

A year ago, I was playing with my four children in an attempt to distract them from the terrifying sounds of the Israeli shelling. But my panic-stricken children would not play and clung fervently to me.

Without warning, a rocket exploded near our home. The children screamed in terror and tightened their hold on me. My 9-year old daughter Yasmeen closed her eyes and tried to search for a safe place inside my body. I tried to divert her attention from what was happening outside the house, but she did not respond. It was as though I was talking to someone who wasn’t there.

After the bombing ended, Yasmeen approached me and said,

Father! Whenever I remember the days of the war, especially the sound of the shelling that we heard near our house, I wish I was dead and could not remember these moments. I felt that day that I would be killed. Promise me father, that there will be no more war.

It was beyond my power to make this kind of promise. I could only hug her in silence.

There is no greater pain than the pain of parents who cannot protect their children. We appeal to the parents of all lands – help us to end this terrible oppression, so that we can provide our children with a safe place to heal.

Marwan A. Diab is a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme 

 

 Tyrone to Gaza

by Patricia Campbell - Northern Ireland

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On January 2, my union organised a solidarity meeting in Tyrone Northern Ireland to support Viva Palestina, the international convoy that is defying the Israeli siege to get desperately-needed supplies into Gaza.  
 
The meeting was a great success. We connected by telephone with John Hurson, who was on the convoy, and with Mahmoud Abu Aisha, who works for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

 

The people in the room gave Mahmoud a rapturous applause, and he was overcome with emotion. It was incredible.

As I looked around the room, I saw many people who bore their own awful scars from war. We were filled with emotion and pride. Our solidarity springs from the very depths of our being.

We people of Northern Ireland know what it’s like to live under foreign occupation. We know the startling sound of gunfire, the shocking sound of explosions and the daily grind that war brings. I personally know what it's like to have a gun put to my head by a brutalised soldier with hate in his eyes and his finger on the trigger – his only loyalty to the empire. That’s what it's like to live and experience war.

During those dark days, we had the opportunity to build a working-class alternative, to unite all of our people against the occupiers and our own politicians who collaborated with them. Because we failed to do this, we are now dominated by a gang of corrupt politicians who implement the occupiers’ policies, and that’s what they call ‘peace’.

Despite the fact that we’re 16 years into a ‘peace process,’ our people are still not free. They continue to be ground down by poverty and oppression.

We have no political or social rights. In my capacity as a Community Psychiatric Nurse, I witness this every day. I manage people’s misery, and I give my all, but I can’t give them what they really need – their freedom.

Our liberation depends on us building a broad working-class movement that can spill over borders and unite us against our common oppressors. It’s time that we learned from our mistakes, so that we can succeed in the future.

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

 

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International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP) has joined 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.

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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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