From the frontlines: The First Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee Action!

On Sunday May 17th, the Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee took their first public action with a car caravan of solidarity to nursing home workers and residents. Community members including healthcare workers from Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne and Philadelphia Counties joined the caravan which travelled to The Gardens, the Jewish Home, and Mountainview.

Speakers included Jessica Fratzola, a member of the NEPA HRC and an LPN, and Kristin Colangelo, member of the Philadelphia Healthcare Rights Committee whose son, a member of the National Guard, was called up to assist with the nursing home crisis. Members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) also participated in the caravan. Check out coverage of the action in the Scranton Times-Tribune and Fox 56.

If you’re interested in getting involved in Northeast PA, call into the next Healthcare Rights Committee Meeting June 4th. More information here.

People’s Strike: Fighting for Our Lives, Forging Our Future

On May 1st, International Workers Day, Put People First! PA accepted an invitation to be part of a day-long streaming event with Cooperation Jackson about organizing around the country. PPF-PA members Nijmie, Terrell, Karim, and Hope represented PPF-PA. We were interviewed by Wende Marshall. PPF-PA’s speakers begin at the 1 hour and 30 minute mark and ends around 1’55”. Watch the video here.

Philly May Day 2020 – Workers Resistance Caravan

Put People First! PA participated in a Workers Resistance Caravan May 1st. Watch the video here. Catch PPF-PA member Jacob speaking in front of Hahnemann Hospital at minute 2:15. The caravan drove around various sites in Philadelphia and stopped to hear about resistance struggles. Organizations that participated include:

Juntos
New Sanctuary Movement
Asian Americans United
Black and Brown Workers Cooperative
Put People First! PA
Workers World Party
International Action Center
Philly Workers Solidarity Network

Freedom Church of the Poor

Recently, the Kairos center has been hosting a weekly event called Freedom Church of the Poor, where folks come together to study the Bible as a document about the struggles of poor people. This past week, on Sunday May 10th, PPF-PA was asked to participate and talk about our struggles against healthcare profiteers, as this week’s theme was “Non-Cooperation in a Death Dealing Society”. Watch the video here. We read a passage about organized resistance to injustice in Exodus, and then Tammy shared about battling UPMC in Lancaster, Jae talked about the fight for Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, and Jacob brought their skills of theomusicology.

You can watch the recorded session on here on Kairos Center facebook page, where you can also catch the livestream every Sunday evening from 6-7:30 pm!

Applause will not Protect Us: The Reality of Healthcare Workers on the Frontlines

The People’s Forum is convening a recurring online space to hear and discuss current analysis and reports from leaders of people’s movements and organizations in the US and across the world. PPF-PA participated in the discussion yesterday, Monday, May 11th.

During this global pandemic, health workers are celebrated and applauded as heroes as they put their own lives at risk to care for the vulnerable and ill. Despite this, frontline workers are not provided even the minimum PPE required to carry out their work safely. Watch the video here. What does this contradiction reveal about the system in which we live today? How has the for-profit medical system created the conditions in which health care workers are forced to work in unsafe conditions? What is the global dimension of US capitalist approach to healthcare? To discuss this and more, the People’s forum hosted a discussion between PPF-PA member Karim Sariahmed, NYC nurse and organizer Cris Hilo, and Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival leader, Sheilah Garland-Olaniran. Watch the video recording here.

PPF-PA member and healthcare worker Karim speaking on The People’s Forum.

Virtual lobby day May 7, 2020

Barbara White, Pittsburgh HRC

Put People First! PA is dedicated to achieving a Public Healthcare Advocate Office at the state level for Pennsylvania residents. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, this office would focus on advocating for patient-residents as a class in legislative, policy and regulatory processes. It would develop, in conjunction with a Community Advisory Board, public outreach and engagement strategies such as know-your-rights training and education about the virus transmission. It would support lawmakers by collecting and sharing information or conducting hearings about the healthcare system. It would make referrals to existing agencies for those who have recently lost jobs and healthcare, or provide direct assistance for those whose healthcare needs are not met – including people in rural areas, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, immigrant communities and unhoused people, all seriously impacted by the Coronavirus.

On May 7, 2020 from noon – 1 pm, we held our second virtual lobby day during the Covid-19 pandemic on the topic of how an Office of Public Healthcare Advocate can help the Commonwealth respond to the Covid-19 pandemic by raising the voices of the most impacted people in the state around important issues:

  • Reopen closed hospitals in response to public need for care and testing during the pandemic.
  • Advocate for Personal Protective Equipment, training and support for nursing home caretakers, in order to take better care of nursing home residents, who have died in high numbers in some nursing homes. Residents of nursing homes in PA have made up 10,010 of 51,845 total cases as of May 6, 2020.
  • Funding and access for dignified and adequate testing, especially in poor communities where hospitals have been closed or people do not have medical facilities or transportation to get to testing facilities outside their communities. We need to explore all options: testing at Federally Qualified Health Centers, mobile testing, etc.

Ed Gainey, State Representative for District 24, who supports our proposal for a PHA, discussed the problems we’re seeing now because we invest more in public safety than in public health. Pennsylvania has one of the lowest investments in public health, per capita, in the country. If we invested in public health, we could see healthier communities, less expenditure on incarceration and greater public safety. 

Several other legislators attended or sent staff support to listen or share information or ask questions. Senator Scott Martin’s HHS liaison, Marc Pugliese, participated, as did Rep. Matthew Bradford’s legislative assistant, Ronni Burkhart. We also heard from Emily Kinkead who is running for office in the District 20 primary.

Rev Calvin Hart, Johnstown

February is Black History Month, and the Rev. Martin Luther King is one of the many contributors to shine a light on black history. Commonly known because he was a reverend, he is being studied more because of his political stances.

Coming more from a strict religious background, his political contributions were unknown.

You can’t watch everything that is produced on TV and gain a clear perspective on King.

PutpeoplefirstPA.org is a new force that is based largely on the teachings of King. […] With proper stimuli, there can be positive results. I thank our Holy God for his Holy Spirit, who is ever-present no matter what the circumstances may be.

“The dispossessed of this nation – both white and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. … There are millions of people in this country who have very little or even nothing to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.” – Martin Luther King Jr.