As an emergency medical technician in NYC I am confronted with the realities of our so-called “healthcare” system on a daily basis. As first responders, EMT’s are literally on the front lines in the struggle of our class to survive in a system ruled by a privileged few who consider many of us to be disposable. Many EMTs quickly learn that the indifferent and cold-hearted nature of the for-profit healthcare system almost always plays a role in the daily suffering we see in our patients.
In the richest city in the richest country in the world, poor and working people in NYC are being denied fast access to life-saving definitive care because hospitals can’t find the funding to keep their doors open. We are being denied life saving mental health services through neglect and indifference, instead being funneled into Riker’s Island where most of our mentally ill residents wind up.
Since 2004, an estimated 20,000 New Yorkers, virtually all poor and working people, died needlessly simply because they didn’t have “coverage”. By most accounts roughly 3 million New Yorkers lack health insurance and the numbers could be higher when you take into account the number of undocumented families that are scared to go next to any institution that is government related.
As is the case in most, if not all, of the United States, drug addiction is treated as a law enforcement issue instead of a medical issue. Whole communities are being incarcerated instead of treated, to the detriment of everyone except those making money off the healthcare and prison industrial complex. Of course if your community is primarily white, “middle-class” and facing an epidemic of drug use (as is the case in the borough of Staten Island) police commissioner Bill Bratton thinks we should not try and “arrest our way out of the problem” but instead invest in more rehabilitation services – a step communities of color have been asking for for decades.
The class and race biases endemic in our so-called “healthcare” system must be replaced by a true healthcare system ran not by business men and corporation but by medical professionals who come from our communities. That system can only be viable if we completely remove our hospitals, doctors, nurses, EMTs, scientists, engineers and so on from the grip of the capitalist for-profit system. Unlike the socialist healthcare system of Cuba, which has nothing to do with profit, our Capitalist healthcare system will never truly care about humans only $ signs. If we take a close look, sisters and brothers, the “signs and symptoms” of poor and working people can only point us (as medical professionals who love our people) to one diagnosis – the need for social revolution.