Put People First! PA and SEIU Healthcare PA hold memorial, call for better care and wages outside of local nursing home

On Saturday afternoon about 20 people rallied outside of ManorCare Health Services – Pittsburgh, calling for better care for patients and better wages for workers at the facility. The protest was led by the family of Wanda Moore Evans, who passed away last year after receiving substandard care at the facility. Ms. Evans’ husband Bukari Bey and daughter Munroe Bey are leaders of Put People First! PA, a statewide grassroots organization working to ensure healthcare is treated as a human right in Pennsylvania. They were joined by other members of Put People First as well as members of SEIU Healthcare PA, a union representing nursing home workers throughout Pennsylvania.

Ms. Evans spent the last several weeks of her life at ManorCare, following a ruptured blood clot in her leg which left her on life-support. During her time at ManorCare, her personal hygiene was consistently neglected and she was hospitalized three times due preventable incidents. In one instance, she was hospitalized after being dropped by a staff person because the staff person was required to carry Ms. Evans by herself.

According to data collected by Medicare, the ManorCare Health Services – Pittsburgh provides 57 minutes less skilled nursing care staff time per patient, per day than the national average[1]. Last year the facility was cited by the PA Department of Health for 10 deficiencies during one inspection[1].

At 2:00pm the group gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the nursing home. Munroe Bey was the first to speak, “We are here because in the last 30 days of my mother’s life she experienced the worst neglect: neglect that ultimately took her life. We are standing here for all of those who are concerned about the quality of care in nursing homes across the state of Pennsylvania. We are not going to tolerate abuse of elders.”

The group marched down the block chanting “People over profit,” and “We ain’t got no use for elder abuse”. They held signs reading ‘Dignity for our Elders’, ‘Dignity for Caregivers’, and ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Vespera Barrow, another leader of Put People First! PA, led the march across the street to the front of the ManorCare building, where she spoke through a bullhorn, “ManorCare is one of the largest nursing home chains in the country. They are making huge profits by providing a minimum standard of care, understaffing their facilities, and underpaying their workers.”

In 2006, HCR ManorCare’s CEO Paul Ormond received $17.3 million in total compensation[2], while Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) at ManorCare facilities make an estimated, $11.81 an hour on average[3]. Ms. Barrow continued, “We are demanding that ManorCare increase staffing levels to above the national average, and that ManorCare pay all of its workers a living wage so they are fairly compensated to provide good care for our elders.”

The event concluded with the release of a dozen white balloons to memorialize Ms. Evans. As, the balloons floated away Ms. Evans’ husband Bukari Bey spoke, “We all love you and we miss you so much Wanda. And we are just going to keep on fighting baby.”

1. https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare
2. http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2007/04/07/Manor-Care-boss-got-17-3M-in-06.html
3. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/HCR-ManorCare-Salaries-E354848.htm

Read an excerpt from a workshop by PPF member, leader and co-founder Nijmie Dzurinko at the Philly Leadership Institute last month!

One way that a human rights framework is strategic is that when we talk of universality, it’s about opening up the space. We need healthcare for people who are locked up. We need healthcare for people who are undocumented. We need healthcare for people who are queer and trans. So if you say “yes” to universality, you are saying “yes” to that whole thing. And we can’t back down from that.

And so the human rights principles are very strategic because they allow us to say “Our class, of poor and dispossessed people has people from every race, from every ethnic group, from every gender, from every ability, from every part of the state, from every status, and we can’t be separated.” We are all part of the same class. We can build and bring in all those people, because we need all those people. Like Danelle said [in our Healthcare is a Human Right campaign video]: That there are more of us who need this, who are fighting for this, than there are people who are trying to prevent us from getting it. No one in this room is one of those people who are trying to prevent us from getting our needs met, we don’t have the power to do that, we don’t have the decision-making power, we aren’t in that place. If you are, please identify yourself!

We are not those people who are making those decisions, and supporting those systems, propping those systems up. We are people who don’t agree with that, and saying “You know what — just because you are doing that, that’s not an Act Of God.” Those are human decisions and human systems created by human beings. And we are all human beings, and we can change those systems. We can change those conditions. We can change those circumstances. And the more that we believe that, and stop believing that they are “Acts Of God,” that “the market” is some kind of unseen force that has different moods on different days and feels like different things. Those kinds of ideas cause us to not realize that we do have power to change systems, and to change those forces.

I also want to situate our work in the Black Radical Tradition of building multi-racial poor people’s movements that started in the foundation of this country, with things like Bacon’s Rebellion. It continued on through Reconstruction, it continued on through the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, through Fred Hampton and the Original Rainbow Coalition, through the Poor People’s Campaign, through the Homeless Union organizing in the 1980s, and it continues on through the legacy of Put People First. Those are the traditions that we come out of.

the following is an anonymous member reflection

Having a rough day at work and wanted to share a small victory I had thanks to — and a moment that made it clear to me once again, why we need universal health care and so much more…

**The only trauma talked about below is related to the awfulness of a system that puts profit over people, I don’t talk about intimate partner abuse explicitly.**

I work as a domestic violence counselor in a hospital, so I go to work, and am never quite sure what I’m walking into that day (like many of you also face). Today I was asked to go speak with a woman who had just given birth a couple days ago, and who the nurses believed was suffering from postpartum depression as a result of domestic violence. I went to talk to her using a phone interpreter since the woman was Haitian and spoke French Creole. Soon after talking to her, it became clear that she was not experiencing domestic violence, and was definitely not suffering from mental illness. Even though I’m supposed to stop talking to someone after I realize they aren’t experiencing domestic violence, I stayed and listened because my human rights/health justice antennae were going off. She was definitely in a stressful situation, which was only being made worse by the hospital. She is uninsured, but before going to the hospital to give birth to her child she was told that she would definitely not be charged anything, that she would not see a bill. But people at the hospital kept giving her conflicting information and she was given a bill without any explanation of what financial assistance was available to her. I explained Emergency Medicaid to her, and that it was likely she would qualify for that, and I told her she may need to ask and demand to get an application. I also told her that although people at the hospital keep treating her as though she is a bad mother and “crazy,” she is reacting completely normally to the situation she is in. I told her over and over that she wasn’t crazy, and by the end of the conversation we were able to laugh together at the absurdity of the way people were treating her, and basically the absurdity of the US health system. She told me she felt much better, and was surprised that someone who was much younger than everyone else she had spoken with that day was able to provide her with some relief. It made me angry/sad that there are people who are deeply affected by this messed up health system, and then the health system turns around and blames them for it by diagnosing them with a “mental illness” to dismiss the reality of how traumatizing the system itself can be.

So…I was channeling my PPF community so hard in that room today. Thank you all. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I was able to help someone feel a little less crazed in this absurdity of a system thanks to you all.

Love you all <3

Articúlo original: http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/39326-an-almost-trump-voter-how-education-and-my-activism-changed-my-husband-s-opinion

Jueves, 2 de febrero, 2017. Danielle Morrow (traducción: Anna Cibils)

Mi esposo, Kevin, fue un casi-votante de Trump. Nosotros vivimos en el condado de Cambria, Pennsylvania, un área rural con una población de mayoría gente blanca, y es parte de la región llamada el “Rust Belt” que ha ganado tanta atención de Donald Trump y los medios este año pasado. Kevin sufre de la epilepsia, problemas con su salud mental, y artritis. El ha peleado por más de 10 años tratando de recibir Seguridad de Ingreso Suplementario (en inglés, SSI) y lo han continuamente negado beneficios.

Kevin no puede hacer trabajo de 40 horas por semana porque tiene restricciones médicas, incluyendo que no puede arrodillarse, empujar, tirar, levantar, subir y bajar escaleras, y no puede estar parado por más de 30 minutos seguidos. Hasta con estas limitaciones y una familia de cinco a quienes cuidar, todavía le negaron beneficios de discapacidad. El condado de Cambria ya tiene muy pocos empleos, y para él es casi imposible encontrar un trabajo que puede hacer.

Durante la campaña presidencial, Kevin apoyó a Trump. Yo no estaba de acuerdo con él, pero yo también podía ver lo que le resonaba: una promesa de un cambio político y de devolver los empleos. Eso es un cambio que la mayoría de nosotros queremos ver, aunque tenemos ideas diferentes de cómo llegar ahí.

El encanto de los dos, Donald Trump y Bernie Sanders, es que ellos dieron a la gente una respuesta real a la pregunta, “Quién es mi enemigo?” Para Trump, es los musulmanes, inmigrantes y los élites del gobierno; y para Sanders, es Wall Street. Los dos mensajes resonaron fuertemente con la gente en mi condado. Dónde los empleos son pocos y la gente tienen miedo que van a ser reemplazados en la economía por gente que sea más explotable. Cuando estamos en guerra constante en el extranjero y hay una oleada de noticias designadas para causar terror, la gente tienen miedo de las teorías que le presentan.

Sin ser expuestos a gente de diferentes géneros, fondos étnicos, fondos raciales, y fondos religiosos, con un sistema de educación que no enseña nuestra historia verdadera, y un limitado acceso al internet en áreas rurales, las perspectivas en nuestros pueblos son limitadas. Quizás no es correcto, pero también no es inevitable. Sanders introdujo una fuente diferente para nuestros problemas, el de los élites de Wall Street controlando el sistema para beneficiarse a ellos mismos mientras la gente pequeña sufren.

El año pasado, Kevin y yo nos unimos a Put People First! PA, una organización que está creando poder en el estado cruzando líneas de división como raza, geografía, y afiliación político para luchar por nuestras necesidades básicas como el cuidado médico, la vivienda, y la educación. Recientemente, nosotros ganemos una campaña en que demandemos que el Departamento de Seguros de Pennsylvania tenga la primera audiencia pública sobre la revisión de precios de seguros médicos, y yo sé que mientras crece nuestra comunidad, nuestras campañas van a ser más ambiciosos.

Ser parte de este proceso profundo de organización comunitaria, ha impactado mi punto de vista, y yo sé que conocer alguien como yo ha impactado los puntos de vista de los demás. Tenemos una dedicación de largo plazo entre nosotros y esto nos está sosteniendo durante el momento actual. Aprendemos de nuestras luchas, y nos apoyamos con un nivel de respeto y entendimiento que todos deberían recibir, no importa sus perspectivas ni opiniones.

Sabemos que a menos que creamos un amplio movimiento que incluye todos los que están luchando, no vamos a ganar. Entonces, gente rural y de pueblos chicos se tienen que unir con gente urbana. Personas cisgéneras uniéndose con personas transgéneras.

Respetamos la inteligencia de todos, creamos confianza a través de aprender nuestras historias, desarrollamos nuestro liderato, y estudiamos juntos. La gente de clase trabajadora y pobre son tan inteligentes como los demás. Por tener la oportunidad de aprender sobre el capital mundial y el racismo, conectamos nuestras experiencias individuales a la extensión amplia de la historia. Sabemos lo correcto y lo incorrecto, y podemos estrategizar sobre cómo cambiarlo.

En Junio 2016, un grupo nuestro de distintas partes de Pennsylvania organizó una vigilia para mi madre, que falleció de cáncer del pulmón en Octubre 2015. Aunque ella perdió esta batalla, fue el tratamiento inadecuado que causó su fallecimiento tan rápido. Nos paremos en frente de la oficina del proveedor, demandado una disculpa, y con el apoyo de gente de todas partes del estado, nos hicimos oír. Yo, mujer blanca y pobre de Johnstown, estaba parada tomada de brazos con mi amiga y miembra de Filadelfia, una mujer negra, pobre, y musulmana que llevaba puesto un hijab.

Kevin estaba en la vigilia, y aunque él tiene puntos de vista que son diferentes a los de la mayoría de nosotros, él todavía demuestra mucho apoyo para mi trabajo y entiende la razón por cual yo lucho. Lamentar una muerte en comunidad es esencial para sanar, y yo siento que mucha gente, incluyendo Kevin, se curaron en este encuentro. Puertas nuevas se abrieron, trayendo nuevas oportunidades para organizar y fortalecer conexiones. Por último, esta experiencia lo hizo muy difícil — y después imposible — que Kevin siga apoyando a Trump.

Las más conversaciones que tuvimos, lo más Kevin reveló sus dudas, cómo oír Trump decir que él quiere deportar inmigrantes, y después descubrir que la esposa de Trump es una inmigrante. Cuanto más Kevin pensaba en ello, lo más realizaba que no hay una solución fácil para los problemas que enfrentamos. Donald Trump se metió en un trabajo que le queda grande, y se le hizo obvio a Kevin que Trump no entiende ni la gente pobre — como nunca fue pobre — ni la política, las dos cosas que son fundamentales para mantener un país.

No somos rojos ni azules. No somos fichas para transacciones políticas, y la fuerza de nuestros vínculos va a resistir la clasificación, no importa si viene de los Republicanos llenos de odio o los Demócratas neoliberales. Resistiendo estas binarias no es solamente posible, si no es la única manera en que nos podemos unir los de abajo con suficiente fuerza para desafiar los de arriba.

Es posible. Y quizás ese es el mensaje de esperanza y cambio que realmente necesitamos.