Labor and health advocates, immigrant rights groups reassure New Yorkers: public hospitals are “protected zones”
NEW YORK: As a result of growing fears of discrimination against women and immigrants, and within communities of color, and with evidence of mounting violence against Muslims and other vulnerable populations, New Yorkers have stepped forward to invoke a great tradition of care and equality in the public hospital system. Public hospital nurses, doctors and healthcare workers in the system and their many supporters are declaring New York City hospitals “safe havens of care for all.”
The declaration was issued today by a coalition of labor, civil rights, and public health advocacy organizations. Seven members of the Save Our Safety Net Campaign – including the New York State Nurses Association, Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, Doctors Council SEIU, District Council 37 (DC37), the Commission on the Public’s Health System and the New York Immigration Coalition, representing hundreds of thousands of people living and working in Metropolitan NYC, are reiterating the hospital system’s popular credo: without regard to race, religion, immigration status or ability to pay, all those in need will be given care and protection at the city facilities.
The New York City Health and Hospital system (NYC H+H) is comprised of 11 public hospitals. One in five New Yorkers received care in the system last year.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo have reaffirmed the safety and welfare of all New York residents in recent days. In the spirit of their recent statements, the coalition wants to remind the public of the traditional role of NYC H+H in protecting the health and safety of all patients.
“Let’s be clear: Election results do not change the fundamental values that define New York’s commitment to providing care for all who need it. Our public health care system will always be immune to the toxicity of ugly political rhetoric,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director, DC37.
“This is a critical moment, when religious and racial discrimination are on the rise, threatening violence,” said Anne Bové, RN, a Bellevue nurse and President of the New York State Nurse Association’s NYC H+H Executive Council. “Our public hospitals have a long tradition of serving all New Yorkers, no matter who they are or what their care needs. Our mission is to provide a ‘safe haven of care’ and we will not be deterred.”
“Across the city and state, immigrants, communities of color and other working families struggle to access quality health care. Front line doctors in the public hospital system have been at the forefront of providing care to all those who walk in our doors regardless of income, zip code or ethnicity. We are committed more than ever to ensuring our hospitals welcome all New Yorkers who need our help,” said Frank Proscia, M.D., President, Doctors Council SEIU.
“The mission of our public hospital system is to provide quality care to all regardless of their race, gender, economic or immigration status as well as their ability to pay. Our communities deserve nothing less. We cannot allow anyone to use dangerous fear and intimidation language to scare any patient from accessing their human right to receive care,” said Judy Wessler of the Save Our Safety Net Campaign.
“We have seen an uptick in hate attacks recently against Muslims, immigrants, Asians, and Latinos since the election, said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Safe havens are absolutely important, and NYC H+H institutions are critical institutions to protect our fellow New Yorkers against religious and racial discrimination. We applaud our City’s caregivers who have stepped up in the face of hatred to show what New York is really about.”
“Our public hospitals have long been the cultural competent providers of first resort for arriving immigrant groups of virtually every ethnic and language background. And despite operating in an environment characterized by overburdened, constrained and unequal financial reimbursement mechanisms, our public hospitals have been there to serve, promote and protect the welfare and well-being of everyone,” said Anthony Feliciano, Director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System. “Any substantial threat to those rights and protections will be confronted with defiance and strong opposition. We call again for our public hospitals to renew their commitment to keep patient immigrant status private. To renew their commitment to keep their doors open to current and new generations of New Yorkers, especially immigrants, people of color, people of all religions, and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
“It is our responsibility as physicians to care for all who come to us, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, or ability to pay,” said Dr. Priscilla Chukwueke, Psychiatry resident at Harlem Hospital and Regional Vice President for the Committee of Interns and Residents. “When our patients are deterred from seeking much needed healthcare due to bureaucracies, ultimately it increases morbidity and mortality, and on a larger picture it creates a higher financial burden on the nation.”
The public hospitals, together with rural hospital and private hospitals serving large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients – “safety net hospitals” — are very much in need of a system of equitable funding. In June, the Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill passed the Legislature by a unanimous vote. This bill addresses in a significant way the funding needs of the safety nets. The Save Our Safety Net Campaign is working towards its signature in Albany, which would make it law.